News Writer

Tears of courage filled the eyes of sympathetic audience members and five domestic violence survivors as they told their stories Oct. 30 at the University of Puget Sound.

October was domestic violence awareness month and the YWCA of Pierce County organized “Voices of Courage,” to share the stories of domestic violence survivors from around the Puget Sound area.

“There are people that want to tell their story, but it’s not always safe,” said Jessica Gavre, the Development Director at the YWCA of Pierce County. “This was a way for survivors to tell their stories that was safe and confidential.”

Each of the five survivors met with a storyteller to develop her experiences into monologues. Volunteer actresses then performed those monologues at the event. No original names were used.

“My hope is we’ve touched people’s heart and spirit,” storyteller Kimi Irene Ginn said. “It’s going to take all of us to stop the domestic violence in our community and the injustices in our [justice] system.”

Members of the Pacific Lutheran University Sexuality Awareness and Personal Empowerment Team (SAPET) attended the event.

PLU’s Men’s Project Coordinator, Jonathan Yglesias said, “It was an incredible opportunity to hear real stories that affected not only people, but the communities they and their families exist in.”

The YWCA of Pierce County provides safe shelter and comprehensive services for survivors of domestic violence. An associate board member of the YWCA, Justin Leighton, said more than 8,300 domestic violence incidents were reported in Pierce County in 2014, including eight homicides.

“It was so inspirational and so real and emotional,” an attendee of the event, Sedoni Young said. “They’re champions and conquerors.”

The U.S. National Domestic Violence hotline reported one in four women and one in seven men who are 18 and older have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

“It was really powerful,” YWCA volunteer, Nerissa Kenan said. “I think it’s a really great healing process for the women, seeing that all of these people came out to hear their stories.”

An associate board member of the YWCA, Kaitlyn Sill, said it takes up to seven attempts for a survivor to leave their abusive relationship for good.

In her monologue, Paula said, “It took a long time for me to realize it was abuse. Not all kinds of abuse leave bruises.”

After the performances, the survivors whose stories had been shared were given the opportunity to stand. Their stories brought more than 75 audience members to their feet with tear-filled eyes.

“Telling my story is me taking my first step. This is me letting go of the past. A new beginning for me,” Janelle, whose story was told, said. ◼︎

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