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GRC hosts prayer service for victims of interpersonal violence

| Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In the midst of Relationship Violence Awareness Month, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) held a prayer service Tuesday evening for the healing of victims and all others impacted by interpersonal violence.

“We gather here today because we know that sexual violence, that dating violence, that all forms of interpersonal violence don’t affect only individuals but communities, and they don’t need only individuals to heal — they need communities to heal,” Bridget O’Brien, assistant rector of Farley Hall and a doctoral candidate in theology, said.

“[Forms of violence] don’t affect only our physical well-being; they don’t affect only our emotional well-being; they don’t affect only our spiritual well-being; but they impact all of these things, and we need to heal in all of these ways.”

O’Brien, who offered the service’s reflection, said it is the responsibility of the community to confront interpersonal violence for the sake of its own health and for that of its members.

“We come together in solidarity to offer support and strength to one another and to pray for healing for ourselves, for those we love, for our communities,” she said.

O’Brien reflected on a biblical passage, in which a woman named Hannah asks for God’s intercession to bring her peace and healing. She said Hannah’s story is a model for those suffering the consequences of interpersonal violence.

“Hannah’s is a story of surviving year after year, of praying prayers that seem unheard year after year,” she said. “ … Hannah’s is a story of being misunderstood, a story of betrayal and violation of trust when someone close to her uses her pain against her.

“ … Her story is messy and undignified and not the story of someone who has it all together. And yet that story, her story, is a story of healing,” she said.

O’Brien said as in the case of Hannah, healing for individuals and communities affected by interpersonal violence is not an easy process.

“We are here to affirm in humility that that healing can be slow,” she said. “We are here to acknowledge in humility that that pain can be hidden.”

Besides O’Brien, several others participated in the service. Junior Ben Swanson was a cantor for the event, and sophomore Pierce Witmer offered the intercessions.

Following the reflection and intercessions, all those in attendance had the opportunity to tie various colored ribbons around intertwining ropes suspended from a tree south of LaFortune Student Center. Students will also be able to add ribbons to the tree throughout the remainder of the week.

The service took place outside LaFortune Student Center between Nieuwland and Crowley Halls — a location chosen for its visibility on campus, the GRC’s assistant director of educational initiatives Regina Gesicki said.

“Unfortunately, relationship violence is something that people walk past every day — not that they don’t care, but it’s just you don’t know who’s been affected,” Gesicki said. “This shows you who in our community is impacted and that out community as a whole is impacted. This is here, it’s visible and it’s something that we all have to encounter — [or at least] most of us — on our way around campus.”

Gesicki said the service was a departure from previous years, in which the GRC held Masses of Healing. She said the change reflects a desire to try something new and to make the event more noticeable in the Notre Dame community.

“We just wanted something that was more visible, [so that] people, even if they weren’t participating, they were walking by and looking at it,” she said. “ … We thought it would be a nice way to be more out in the open and also potentially, knowing this is midterm week, have a shorter event.”

The final event of Relationship Violence Awareness Month is the Time to Heal Dinner, scheduled for Oct. 28 in the Morris Inn Ballroom.

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