Response, founded in 1983, is the only organization working to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Pitkin County and western Eagle counties. Awareness of these issues, along with the services Response offers to victims, is critical to breaking the cycle and stigma of abuse, and helping survivors heal to the point of thriving.

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.
 
Hannah Horn, who works at Response, is one of the storytellers. "My hope in sharing my story is that others can learn something from it and know they don't have to go through it alone," she says of her experience of being stalked and harassed by an ex-boyfriend. Horn, who has a degree in psychology and has worked more than 500 hours on assault and abuse crisis phone lines, notes that many people don't view that as assault, though it most certainly is. 
 
While all of the evening's presenters are now in a positive place, Meyer warns that the stories could trigger strong emotions among listeners. Thus, Response has partnered with Mind Springs Health to have a therapist on hand. Howe will moderate the evening, and attendees are invited to come when the doors open to meet the storytellers, talk to Response board members, and learn more about the organization.  

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."


Our Response—Survivor Stories Storytelling Event
Thursday, October 18, doors open at 5 p.m., event runs 6–7 p.m.
Wheeler Opera House Lobby Bar
$25, aspenshowtix.com
responsehelps.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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