Voices Against Violence ‘breaks the silence’ on abusive relationships

Forrest Milburn

A crowd of 50 students gathered Tuesday at the San Jacinto Amphitheatre to support survivors of relationship violence as they shared their experiences.

Laramie Gorbett, who works with survivors of relationship violence, and spoke at the event and said she has experienced relationship and domestic violence in her own partnerships and also witnessed abusers hurt her mother throughout her childhood.

“I was in a situation where I could leave, where I could shut the door and change the locks,” Gorbett said. “I know that not everyone is that lucky, so I tell you my story tonight to remind you that nobody is immune, that we are all survivors, and that we all have the power to grow and to heal.”

The survivors spoke as part of UT Voices Against Violence’s annual “Breaking the Silence” event to commemorate Relationship Violence Prevention Month. The event aims to provide a safe place for survivors to share their stories and give advice to those in need.

“It’s a space where there’s a community of support, a community where people are going to believe folks who make the very brave choice to come forward and share what is often some of the most difficult experiences of a young person’s life,” Erin Burrows, health education coordinator for VAV said.

The event included performances from VAV’s Theatre for Dialogue class, UT’s acapella group Ransom Notes and South Austin poet Kevin Burke. Several audience members shared their experiences with relationship violence at an open mic set up by VAV.

The event also showcased an interactive art installation called the Visual Voice Project, which featured numerous purple cards, etched with stories of relationship violence victims under the age of 30 who died last year, hung on pieces of string around the amphitheater. Audience members could also write positive messages on heart-shaped cutouts and hang them adjacent to the project.

“The Visual Voice Project is just an opportunity for people to express themselves who aren’t walking up to that open mic,” Burrows said. “For survivors, they’re here to connect with people, they want to express themselves.”

Psychology freshman James Ener said he came to the event to see a friend share his experience.

“I’ve been in two relationships myself, and I’ve been cheated on in both of them,” Ener said. “I haven’t been harmed in any sort of way, but I have been emotionally harmed, which I feel is similar, and so it hits home with me.”

This article has been updated since publication.