Survivors of domestic violence share personal experience of abuse, assault with students

October 25, 2016

Audrey Jensen

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     You did everything you were supposed to do. You brought a friend you trusted to a party and believed you were going to be safe no matter what.

     But you didn’t know that after drinking enough to need a safe ride home, your friend would be the one to sexually assault you, betray you, hurt you and deny they did anything after you confront them.

     This was one of the several testimonies told through tears and hesitation to a classroom full of around 45 students and faculty at UCCS on Oct. 18.

     This is the third annual Survivor Speak Out discussion for domestic violence awareness month, which is hosted by Respect on Campus.

     The discussion allows survivors to speak openly to students about their stories and what resources are available to anyone in similar situations.

Five women voluntarily shared with a large group their personal stories of being assaulted, harassed and abused by those they once trusted, loved or cared about.

     A few of these women are UCCS students and representatives from TESSA, an organization that hopes to education and make people aware of domestic violence.

     They explained how they processed what happened to them, what resources they used and why they were speaking.

     The speakers did not give their last name when introducing themselves for privacy purposes, said Ethan Wade, campus outreach and awareness coordinator for ROC.

     One domestic violence survivor, Vanessa, was married for 13 years.

     “It’s really hard to walk this line between what can I say to tell you how awful it was so that you know, and also maintain some glimpse of calmness,” said Vanessa.

     Each speaker and survivor of domestic violence said they could relate to one another and could see similar patterns in their stories.

     “My story is personal to me, but it’s really systematic,” Vanessa said. “I guess what it comes down to for me is basically it’s a collection of stories.”

     After getting a haircut one day, Vanessa recalled her ex-husband refusing to speak to her for a week. This was one example of the multiple stories each woman shared.

     “One time he told me that he knew how to kill me without getting caught, and described it, and I was just supposed to be sort of OK with that,” she said.

     “The bottom line of it is that was supposed to be normal and that’s the weirdest, most awful part of the story.”

     Several of the women who spoke expressed their hesitation and fear of telling anyone what happened when they were in these situations.

     Although a challenge to talk about, Juliana, a survivor of sexual assault, said she wants to share her story with other people so that no one has to feel the way she did.

     “It’s amazing to be up here with these other women too, because I think part of the biggest problem is this is so prevalent, and it’s happened to so many people, domestic violence and sexual assault, it’s so common and not talked about, except in these small spaces,” she said.

     “I mean it’s disgusting; it’s embarrassing as a culture that this is how we’re handling it. That’s why I’m here.”

     After Wade asked the women about how they were able to find support and get out their situations, a common response was support from friends or family, as well as offices on campus like ROC or MOSAIC.

     Stacy, who works at TESSA and also shared her story, sees women come back to TESSA after a few months since they left their offender.

     “That’s a gift for me because I can see how I can help somebody, and I honestly have to tell you that that’s the good part of this,” Stacy said.

     “There’s not too many good stories to tell about domestic violence, but if I help one person in the day, I feel pretty good, because they’re also helping me.”

     Students who are afraid to speak out about their situation can contact offices and organizations such as MOSAIC, ROC or TESSA.