WomenSafe Presents ‘I Rise’


Silvia Cantu Bautista

"I Rise" featured a variety of powerful performing arts pieces.


On Sunday, Oct. 1, the Town Hall Theater hosted “I Rise,” a performance fundraising-awareness event for WomenSafe in collaboration with MiddSafe and the college Department of Theater and Dance. The goal of the event was to raise money and awareness about the struggles of domestic violence within Addison County and demonstrate the work that WomenSafe does for the community. For members of WomenSafe this event was powerful because it  “gave voice to survivors” of domestic abuse.

The topic of domestic abuse hits close to home for many people. Sadly, it is a common occurrence in our society that many have direct or indirect connections with its horrors. For this reason, each performance brought the audience closer to the message, allowing them to think of their own personal experiences with domestic abuse or the experiences of those dear to them.

The program started with “Behind the Wall” a performance art and dance piece that demonstrated through jagged, physical, and suffocating movements the atrocities that happen in abusive households behind closed doors. The dancers, students from the dance department, moved with pain in a way that removed themselves from the audience and from their fellow dancers, a feeling that rings true for many people who have been abused and feel alone in the world. The music rang out in the background, a poetic voice lamenting the difficulties of understanding how to help those who are being hurt in their own homes. The narrative continued to tell how police often do not want to interfere with affairs between a man and his wife, demonstrating how in an abusive situation a woman may not be perceived as an independent person but rather the property of a man. The dancers’ hurried movements and sounds of suffocation left the audience feeling helpless to the pain that they were visualizing.

To inform the audience about broad qualifications and demographics of sexual violence, four MiddSafe volunteers came on to the stage to perform “Why,” a performance art piece that used the dancers’ bodies and relation to each other on the stage to display the statistics of who will become victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. This piece was especially harrowing because it sought to bring faces to those statistics of who will experience domestic violence.

After every statistic was read, the dancers would step out to represent within their group who would be the ones to fall victim to sexual violence. What was so moving about this piece was that after every fact was read and each girl stepped out as a representation of victims of domestic abuse, the other girls would in some way reach out to the one affected, displaying an act of female solidarity and recognition of pain.

The most personal of all the performances was “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” written by Kelly Sundberg and performed by members of the theater department. Several girls came out on stage to tell the story of one abusive relationship from beginning to end, each telling different parts that ranged from past to present, interweaving the narrative of this complicated love story. This shed light onto the multidimensional aspects of abusive relationships — it not only detailed the woman hiding under the bed in fear of her husband, but also told stories of the couple emailing each other funny videos at work and laying in bed with their son between them.

The detail of their story explained how complicated it can be to leave an abusive relationship, because often there is real love between the couple. Having several performers tell the same story allowed the audience to see that this happens to many women in the world and that no one should ever feel that they are alone in their suffering.

Following was a poem that brought the audience through the various points in a woman’s life where she feels sexualized or abused, starting from a young age when boys hit girls “because they like them.” This piece titled “Things I (Shouldn’t) Have to Tell My Daughters” written by Mary Heather Noble and read by Lindsay Pontius, details the vicious cycle of domestic abuse that stems from the relationships that men and women experience starting from youth. Each part of the poem demonstrated that violence in romantic relationships is not just a problem that occurs later in life, but one that also has its roots in childhood and teenage years.

Members of the dance department returned to the stage in “Still, I Rise,” using powerful dance motions and the words of Maya Angelou to display the strength that lies in every person who experiences sexual or domestic abuse. This ended the performance with a relatively upbeat tone and left the audience hopeful that people are strong and resilient and can overcome the atrocities of domestic abuse.

College president Laurie Patton came on to the stage to present the final poem of the event, titled “To Stop the Violence Against Woman,” written by Alice Walker. The poem served as a strong call to action for all women to end domestic violence, encouraging women to stand up against the abuse that has been so normalized in our society. Her inspiring demand for support and solidarity among women and men embodies the mission of WomenSafe.

The proceeds of the event went to support WomenSafe’s new fundraising goal of $1.2 million to help the organization continue to fight domestic abuse in Addison County and to provide support for families who have been affected by domestic violence. Through their hotline services, support groups, community outreach and education and supervised visits for children with abusive parents, WomenSafe is working to end domestic abuse in our area.

They are in the process of converting their old offices into transitional housing for people who are leaving abusive households. Hopefully with more events like “I Rise” and donations and volunteers from our local community, WomenSafe can reach their goal of raising 1.2 million dollars to better serve and protect our community.

If you wish to donate to WomenSafe, volunteer or learn more about their programs visit http://www.womensafe.net.