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GRC hosts annual ’A Time to Heal’ dinner

| Thursday, October 29, 2015

Imagine something as ordinary as a pair of shoes transformed into a symbol of both solidarity and hardship.

The Gender Relations Center hosted its annual 'A Time to Heal' dinner Wednesday night as part of its Violence Prevention Initiative. Students engaged in discussions regarding relationship violence.Selena Ponio | The Observer

The Gender Relations Center hosted its annual ‘A Time to Heal’ dinner Wednesday night as part of its Violence Prevention Initiative. Students engaged in discussions regarding relationship violence.

Senior Katherine McManus spoke as the keynote speaker at the Gender Relation Center’s annual “A Time to Heal” dinner Wednesday night and shared her story about Converse sneakers and her sister, Victoria, who died as a result of dating violence.

According to the Gender Relation Center (GRC), “A Time to Heal” has been an annual event that is part of the GRC’s Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI). It was started with the thought that gathering for a meal provides a comfortable setting for an otherwise difficult topic, such as relationship violence.

“I know these events can be heavy and two years ago … I would feel the same way: uncomfortable, tired, thinking I’ve heard it all before, but most of all, thinking this would never happen to me,” McManus said.

McManus said prior to her sister’s death she thought of relationship violence as a topic for TV shows and movies. However, she became aware of the reality of it as she watched her parents make decisions for her sister’s funeral.

“To dwell on my sadness or move on in honor of her life was the choice that was put before me,” McManus said. “My choice was love, not anger. But with this choice also came change.”

Christine Gebhardt, director of the GRC, talked about the importance of this annual dinner and stories like McManus’.

“This is an annual event that is a collaborative effort intended to acknowledge the effects of relationship violence … but more importantly to embrace the survivors in our community and to celebrate the community of healing that we share as a campus,” McManus said.

Student body president Bryan Ricketts talked about the immense amount of support visible within the Notre Dame community that became especially evident during the sexual assault prayer services at the Grotto. He then stressed the importance of community involvement and how support, rather than blame, is necessary in cases of sexual violence.

“Avoid your curiosity because you’re helping a person, not an event. They will tell you when they want to,” Ricketts said. “The size of your action is not important, the fact that you’re doing it is.”

Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president of student affairs, gave the blessing for the meal and led a prayer for all those affected by the injustice of relationship violence.

“In the breaking of bread together, we offer each other a sign of Your peace as we commit to a stance of intolerance for those violent acts of injustice towards human dignity that have no place in our community and this world,” Hoffmann Harding said.

McManus ended her keynote speech on a hopeful note by commenting on the flood of support she received from her lacrosse teammates, family and friends.

“There are not enough ‘thank you’s’ or words in this world to express my gratitude for the love and support that I received and have continued to receive even a year and a half later,” McManus said.

McManus said that without her network of support from her friends and the Notre Dame community, she would have had a more difficult time moving forward. She said she made the decision to love the footsteps her sister had laid out for her instead of hating the man who took her life.

“In my laughing, my breathing, my loving and crying, and living, she is with me,” McManus said. “I could go on and on. … My support network made the choice to help me put my life together and define my new normal.

“It’s hard to fall apart when everyone you know wears Converse sneakers to a funeral because those were your sister’s favorite shoes.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena