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Speeches and Vigil Honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Mai-Linh Ton, Contributing Writer

Two survivors of domestic abuse shared their experiences at an event in honor of the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Thursday.

Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence Victor R. Rivers and Dominique Donette, a student at the Graduate School of Education, spoke about growing up with physically and emotionally abusive fathers.

Following the discussion was a short question-and-answer session and a candlelight vigil at Memorial Church in remembrance of all who were affected by domestic violence, including one of Victor’s brothers, who died as a young child.

Rivers recalled his decision to confront his father in an effort to protect his mother and the rest of his family from being abused. Meanwhile, Donette’s speech focused on the many times she had to help her mother after she had been physically abused.

Both speakers stressed the importance of communities coming together in order to prevent violence.

Rivers alluded to his personal experiences with "angels and advocates," recalling how a teacher at school not only ensured that he was well-fed but also put him on the path to receive a high school scholarship. After getting a restraining order against his father, people he knew took him in as one of their own and cared for him, Rivers said.

After recalling their childhoods, Donette and Rivers said a collaborative effort was key to ending domestic violence.

"It’s up to us to shift the narrative," Donette said. "Our discomfort with talking openly and honestly is a concern.”

Rivers noted the difference in resources for victims of domestic violence compared to when he was a child, but recognized that a lot still had to be done to end the cycle of violence.

Rivers added that cycles of violence can occur within families and said that these cycles needed to be broken. As Rivers said, a significant number of prison inmates were the "victims and witnesses of family violence themselves."

Rivers’s son, Eli K. Rivas '16, was one of the organizers of the event.

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