Spreading Awareness and Hope

This past October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Every year many people work together to bring forth awareness and hope in different ways.  Some host awareness walks in their town.  Others hold candlelight vigils for domestic violence victims.  If you’re an UMPI student, you put on a play.  On Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29, the University Players, UMPI’s drama club, performed “Love for Losers.”  The short play had a domestic violence theme.  After the play, the cast and playwright Darci Faye held a discussion panel with employees from the Hope and Justice Project in Presque Isle.

Faye is a senior criminal justice major at UMPI.  She is also the founder and director of the University Players.  Last year, Faye wrote and staged a play called “Infinitely Yours.”  This was the first time she worked with the Hope and Justice Project.  “Infinitely Yours” took on domestic violence issues in a serious way.  Faye wanted “Love for Losers” to be a funnier look at that topic.  She wrote the play for a comedy playwriting class that she took in New York City before her time at UMPI.

“Love for Losers” follows Sadie, a Wal-Mart employee in Aroostook County.  She spends much of her time fending off her “busybody” co-worker Lenore.  Lenore and Savannah, Sadie’s sister/co-worker, think that Sadie might be hiding something.  They think it is strange that Sadie has filed for divorce from her husband Ben.

Lenore and Savannah thought that Sadie and Ben were happy.  But Ben had been abusing Sadie physically and emotionally for years.  The play takes a funny turn when the women decide to get revenge on Ben.  Faye hoped that audience members would respond well to the performance.  But she was just as excited for the discussion panel after the play.

“What I enjoy about doing this with the Hope and Justice Project is the conversations afterwards,” Faye said.  “It’s a good jumping block to start a conversation about the issue and the myths about it, what people don’t always understand.”

Casey Faulkingham, prevention and training coordinator for the Hope and Justice Project, led the discussion panel.  The Hope and Justice Project gives support, guidance and advocacy to domestic violence victims.  They also educate the public on domestic violence issues.  At UMPI, Faulkingham and her co-workers wanted people to be aware of the myths about domestic violence.  They hoped that people would leave with a different viewpoint.

One myth is that abusers are “out of control” when they act violent or aggressive.  The truth is that abusers are always in control over their emotions and appearance.  They might act friendly in public or around family and friends.  But at home, when no one else is around, they hurt their partners and make them feel worthless.

“Abuse is not an anger or jealousy issue,” Faulkingham said.  “Someone who is an abuser has their own set of beliefs that they have the right to have power and control over another adult human being.”

The panel also talked about how family and friends can misunderstand a victim.  Often victims are too scared to tell anyone about what is going on.  If they do hint at their abuse, sometimes people react in negative ways.  This happened in “Love for Losers.”  At first, Lenore and Savannah could not see past Ben’s act.  They told Sadie that she was being “too sensitive.”

In the play, Sadie left Ben.  But many real life victims feel that they cannot take that step.  Judgment from friends and family can make victims believe that they deserve their abuse.  They falsely believe that what is happening to them is their own fault.

“I hope people gain more empathy for what someone may be feeling in that situation,” Faulkingham said.  “A person who is experiencing abuse doesn’t deserve what is happening to them and there’s no excuse for it.”

Both Faye and Faulkingham enjoyed the chance to work together again.  For them, the event was a unique way to raise awareness.  Audience members watched “Love for Losers,” laughed and had a good time.  But the discussion panel was a reminder that domestic violence is still a serious issue.  The Hope and Justice Project is there for anyone who needs it.

“I feel that they do really important work in this county.  I know for sure that they’re definitely needed,” Faye said.  “I enjoy getting the word out that they’re here and that they can help anyone who’s going through an abusive relationship.”

The play and discussion panel left a great impact on audience members.  Sarah Harris, a freshman English major at UMPI, attended the Oct. 28 performance.

“I think it was really enlightening,” Harris said.  “I haven’t dealt with domestic violence, but it’s good to know about so that if you see it happening you could reach out to someone.”

Domestic violence happens around us 24/7.  If we have not experienced abuse, we may know someone who has.  Or we may not have any experience with this issue.  But there’s always something we can do.  That’s what Faye and the Hope and Justice Project wanted people to know.  Not everyone understands what a victim is going through.  But what they really need is someone to listen and help.  Being aware is the first step someone can take to become that person.

Note: The Hope and Justice Project has a 24-hour hotline for anyone who is experiencing domestic violence or knows someone who is.  That number is 1-800-439-2323.  Every call is confidential.