Paula Finds Her Voice with the Support of SOAR Rhode Island
Since 1989, Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR), a survivor task force of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program-funded Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has worked to promote awareness and advocate for the elimination of domestic violence by giving visibility to the voices of abused women. With 100 domestic violence survivors as members, SOAR emphasizes the power of their voices by creating new forums to share their stories. Recently, one of these venues has been stage performance. For one survivor in particular, the chance to tell her story through theater has been transformational.
Having endured an abusive marriage for over 20 years to a man influential in many social circles, Paula felt forced to be silent, thinking that no one would believe her if she shared the truth. After he passed away, she gained a newfound freedom and sense of relief; having never told her story of abuse. However, Paula felt plagued with guilt and shame. During the length of their marriage, her husband had made her believe that she was mentally unstable, and that she was to blame for the dysfunction in their relationship. It took Paula close to 30 years after his death to speak openly about her experience. At first, she declined to share her story on stage, revealing to her peers that she had never even spoken about her abuse with her daughter. Encouraged by the strength of the other women, however, she later decided to take the stage.
Paula was supported by a team of 14 other women who came together to stage a production last October to tell their stories of abuse and survival; while some have been a part of SOAR for decades, others are new members who are sharing their stories for the first time. Many of the women, including Paula, expressed that collaborating on this venture has prompted their discovery of a newfound sense of courage and drive. This production has not only empowered these women as advocates, but has also encouraged them to speak more openly about their experiences with family and friends, truly strengthening the power of their voices.
With the support of SOAR, Paula finally got the chance to publicly claim her story as her own, and to reject the shame. Though her stage debut took place nearly six months ago, she continues to speak with confidence about her experience and works with SOAR to expand opportunities for survivors like her to tell their stories.