That premise is the focus of the nonprofit's first-ever Our Response—Survivor Stories event at the Wheeler Opera House on Thursday, October 18. Five storytellers will share their personal experiences of survival and empowerment from stalking, abusive childhoods, abusive relationships, and sexual assault.
A Response client brought the idea for the event to Executive Director Shannon Meyer after participating in Writ Large, the storytelling series curated by Carbondale's Alya Howe. Initially, Meyer was concerned about finding enough people willing to share their experiences, but she was surprised by the response and is impressed with the breadth of stories being shared.
Response helped 130 survivors of domestic and sexual abuse from El Jebel to Aspen in 2017. According to Meyer, 85 percent of clients are primarily victims of domestic abuse, while the other 15 percent are victims of sexual abuse. In addition to running a 24/7 helpline, the organization partners with seven hotels to provide emergency shelter nights, offers accompaniment to medical appointments, provides court accompaniment and legal advocacy, makes referrals to other community services, offers crisis intervention and sexual harassment assistance, and performs individual support and advocacy. Response also runs community and school-based prevention and education programs, beginning in the sixth grade, and two of its staff members are bilingual.
Response's approach is "trauma informed and victim centered," Meyer emphasizes. The goal is not to retraumatize victims nor is it to tell people what to do. "Individuals have to weigh for themselves the best decisions in their specific situation," she adds.
And the nonprofit provides the same confidential services to everyone, free of charge. "Our mission has evolved from supporting survivors to also ending domestic and sexual abuse," says Meyer. "That's why education is so important. My hope is that the day will come where our services aren't needed and we put ourselves out of business."