Survivor speak-out provides support, community to students

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Over a dozen students shared art and spoke about their experiences with interpersonal violence to heal and connect with others in a safe environment Wednesday night.

Breaking the Silence, an annual event hosted by the student organization Voices Against Violence in Gregory Gymnasium, began with a resource fair and keynote speaker before opening the floor for students to share stories about interpersonal violence. Students and guests also shared poetry and songs relating to their experiences. Voices against Violence highlights the importance of mental health services on campus and provides resources for students who may be struggling, according to the Counseling and Mental Health Center website.

The event, held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, aimed to build a sense of community for people impacted by interpersonal violence on campus and provide an opportunity for allies to participate and show their support, said Sharon Hoefer, Voices Against Violence prevention specialist.

“We always have clinicians from the Counseling and Mental Health Center (at the event) in case folks want to talk confidentially to someone, because we know that it can be a difficult and heavy subject matter,” Hoefer said.

Wlehdae Moore, an employee of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, spoke at the event about different forms of abuse, on-campus resources available to students and the disproportional amount of interpersonal abuse experienced by racial and ethnic minorities. Math senior Jai Nekkileru said he attended the event because he is on the board of executives for Not On My Campus, a sexual assault prevention student organization.

“My friends who have participated said the biggest part of the healing process is being able to confront that history they have with issues like this,” Nekkileru said. “They all describe it as a very cathartic experience.” 

The event also featured an art installation called Visual Voices — an interactive project where students and volunteers could fold lotuses out of paper to symbolize healing.

“A lot of people are afraid to talk about things that happened to them,” said biology freshman Grace Bynum, who volunteered at the event. “Once they get here and realize other people also have similar experiences, they’re less afraid.”

Throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Voices Against Violence also hosted other events, including an open house where students can meet peer supporters and a “Rally for Healthy Relationships” on West Mall, according to the Facebook page.