One of the things I hope we’ve learned as a society from all the unpleasantness that has gone on the last few months is that it can be very, very hard for survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence to come forward and tell their tales. That’s what makes this Thursday’s “Our Response” Survivor Stories spoken-word event in the Wheeler Opera House bar lobby so remarkable.
“The idea for the event actually came to us at Response from a survivor who had told her story of domestic violence through one of Alya’s other storytelling events,” said Shannon Meyer, Response executive director, “and honestly, my first reaction was: ‘I don’t imagine we’ll find five or six survivors who are willing to publicly tell their story.’”
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the event is a benefit for Response, an Aspen-based nonprofit that supports domestic and sexual abuse victims and survivors. It’s being produced by Alya Howe, whose Writ Large and Salon spoken-word series have met with great responses from performers and audiences alike at venues throughout the valley. Despite her trepidation, Meyer was able to wrangle a willing cast of survivors of different ages and genders, and through Response’s support and Howe’s coaching they’ve found a way to give voice to their real stories of surviving and moving on.
“We want to showcase how these people aren’t victims,” said Meyer. “They have taken bad situations in their lives, they have survived them, and they are now thriving. They’ve taken what’s happened to them, and they’ve turned it into a powerful experience, and they’re willing to share that with the community so that others can benefit from their experience and see that they’ve come out the other end.”
Tickets to the event are $25, and Meyer would be thrilled if people decided to donate more, but the money being raised is secondary to letting one group of survivors have a voice, empowering others to maybe find theirs and raising awareness of Response (visit responsehelps.org or call 925-HELP), which fielded more than 260 calls on its crisis line last year and is on track to outdo that in 2018.
“It’s not that abuse is increasing,” said Meyer. “It’s that there’s more awareness of the hotline, of Response, of the need to get help. Part of what we want to do with the storytelling event is to de-stigmatize survivordom. We’re showing that these people have gone from being victims and survivors to thrivers.”