‘Breaking The Silence’ provides space for students to share stories of relationship violence

Tehreem Shahab

As part of the annual event “Breaking The Silence,” students gathered on the East Mall on Thursday evening to share their stories of dealing with relationship violence.

Hosted by the UT chapter of Voices Against Violence, VAV, “Breaking The Silence” serves to provide a supportive space for survivors of relationship violence. The event had poetry performances, an open mic for students who wanted to speak about their experiences and an organization fair with resources to assist students affected by relationship violence.

Psychology senior Jasmine Bell, who runs spoken-word club UT Spitshine performed two of her poems. She said she has been writing poetry since her freshman year, when she experienced an abusive relationship.

“I have to write these poems. It’s just the way I cope with things,” Bell said. “I think it’s important to tell the truth … I was in denial for a long time, and the first time realized I was in an abusive relationship was at ‘Breaking The Silence.’”

One of Bell’s messages to the audience was “in order to be angry, you have to believe you’re worth something.”

“He had made me believe that I was worthless — that what I wanted was not important — and I think that if there’s a reason to be angry, you shouldn’t necessarily stifle that,” Bell said. “There needs to be space for anger. It’s incredibly important to survive.”

VAV president Mia Goldstein said one of the ways to support survivors is to discontinue victim-blaming.

“We often use language that silences survivors,” Plan II junior Goldstein said. “There is such a huge issue with putting the blame on the victim or survivor. For instance, I hear, ‘If you were being abused, why did you stay?’ That is inherently victim-blaming. It’s not on you to get out of that relationship. It’s on the other person to stop causing the abuse.”

The event concluded with a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence for those who had lost their lives to interpersonal violence.

Lauren White, health education coordinator for VAV in the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said it is important to highlight that this event is a student-run effort.  

“It’s really important to have this be a student-led initiative so that it speaks to students and its opportunities for students to heal and to have a voice in this conversation,” White said.