In light of domestic violence month, students and faculty gathered for a performance and vigil in front of the university library. A “Break The Silence” vigil took place on Oct. 16 from 4 to 5 p.m.
The performance was followed by a candlelight vigil where participants read poems and invited bystanders to speak out. The event focused on honoring lives lost and speaking out against relationship violence and sexual assault.
Jenna Gross, a participant in the performance, created two posters that were labeled “Stand” for the event.
“I want people to know that stand is a metaphor. This performance is all about the girls going down, moving to their most vulnerable position and then somewhat rising to their two feet in the period of 60 minutes,” said Professor Cathy Nicoli, who put this piece together.
Participants were all young women who attend RWU and have a role in dance/performance studies, the Title IX Office or the Women’s Collective.
“I really rally the troops. It’s important to get the word out,” Nicoli said. “I didn’t want to make a dance about this, that just seemed too tacky.”
Most of the girls involved in the dance were dance/performance study majors. These students were also joined by Nicoli.
“I would like to get more men involved in this. The only men here are the observers. It really misrepresents that the only victims of abuse are women,” Nicoli said.
At the beginning of the event, each woman held a red rose. Around 4 p.m., participants walked into three separate groups, talking with friends in front of the library. A minute later, the participants fell harshly to the ground and the roses blew away in the wind.
This caught many people’s eyes. Students walking by stopped and watched, different professors took pictures and people sat down to watch for the hour.
All women were incredibly still, some eyes open, some closed. As time went on, hands barely flinched, arms were slightly raised and knees faced toward the sky. There was very little movement, symbolizing the victims of domestic violence and how long it truly takes them to heal and recover from a traumatic event.
Around 4:30 p.m., a metal bowl was hit with a spoon by Gillian Snyder, a theater major, to let them know about 30 minutes had gone by.
Snyder hit the bowl again at 4:45 p.m. and the participants then slowly made their way up. At this point, the participants were standing, slowly ripping petals off of each rose, making their way to the library steps until all women were finished with the performance.
“The roses represent love being torn away as each petal hits the ground. Most victims of abuse think that abuse is love at first, then that love gets destroyed slowly like the rose,” Nicoli said.
“Most victims of abuse stay silent because they know if they speak out, their children won’t get fed or they will just get hurt even more. Plus, nobody wants to admit that they aren’t living a perfect life.”
“I’ve heard great things about this. But I also heard how hard it is to stay completely still for so long and slowly rise, so I wanted to take part in this powerful thing,” performer Gillian MacLaughlin said.
“I have a past with domestic violence myself, so I am doing this for me,” MacLaughlin said. “It means something more to me. I believe that a silent message speaks louder than anything loud itself.”