Long before the #MeToo movement began, WAEV (We’re Acting to End Violence) has focused on domestic and sexual violence with its bi-annual Unedited Voices
performances. These events, like the one scheduled for 7:30 pm on April 4 at the Lebanon Opera House
, allow survivors to share their stories in hopes of helping the community understand what it is like to go through these experiences.
Assistant Director Abby Tassel answered a few questions about the performance:
Q. How many Unedited Voices have you held? It is held biannually, correct?
A: This is the third Unedited Voices: 2014, 2016, and now 2018. And yes, as you can see, it has been biannual.
Q: How did the idea for this event come about?
The idea came from a group called WISE
an organaztion in the Upper Valley, which is a group that creates opportunities in the community to join with WISE to end domestic and sexual violence. WAEV (We're Acting to End Violence ) is a group that exists within the organization. We were realizing that there is so much misunderstanding about these issues that it would be very helpful for the community to hear about the realities: the horror of the violence, the courage and resilience of victims/survivors, and how, as a society, we are doing a real disservice by not responding in ways that support those most impacted and not holding offenders accountable. One reason that people are so misinformed is that there are not opportunities to hear about what victims experience because it is not safe for victims to speak their truth. Perpetrators make sure of that. In addition, it is natural to turn away from things that we wish were not true, like the pervasiveness of this violence in our community. This is not a few isolated situations; this is a huge problem here and around the world that impacts all of us—many directly and the rest of us indirectly. Hearing one person’s experience only reinforces the perception that this is unusual when it is actually common. People not only need to have opportunities to know what is happening but need to get a sense of the numbers.
We thought: what if we created something that made it possible for those most impacted to actually TELL, that removed some of the barriers and built in some safety? If people are open to just listening—and we think they are—they can get a better understanding of what is happening and can start to see what they can do to make a change. For us to really end domestic and sexual violence requires us changing foundational inequalities in society. This is enormous, and yet there are things we can all do to help, both in how we live our lives and in ways that we can influence larger systems. Listening, opening our hearts, seeing the problems for what they are, recognizing that we all have a role in either supporting or ending the violence can all start by giving people the chance to speak and others to hear their stories.
Q: How many community members will be sharing their stories?
A: There will be 33 written pieces shared and 5 musical pieces.
Q: What are some of the different ways they will tell their stories?
A: Through narratives and poetry.
Q: Why do you feel this event is important?
A: This event is important on so many levels. There is the original intent of the project: to help people understand the realities and join with us to end the violence, but what I have seen happen is that it is also transformational for people who tell. When supported, believed, and listened to on this level, people’s lives change.
It requires people feeling as though it is safe enough to tell but also a space that invites in the community who may not otherwise think this is something they need to think about. We have heard from community members that knowing they can be there just take it in has made a big difference in understanding and how they will be open to hearing the realities and taking action.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know or understand?
A: Before I got involved with this work, I wouldn’t have believed how common domestic and sexual violence are. It has been my work for over two decades now and literally everywhere I go if someone asks me what I do, they tell me about their own experiences or those of friends or family. If we don’t bring it up and signal that we are safe to talk to, no one will say anything. When we do, we start to really see what is going on and can’t help but want to do something about it.
We’re not saying that people need to make this their life’s work, just that they need to listen and believe victims, and not fall into the trap of not wanting to acknowledge this because it is uncomfortable. When we start to see the realities, we can also see that there are lots of myths out there that are easy to believe but are totally false.