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‘Unedited Voices of the Upper Valley’ Adresses Sexual and Domestic Violence

Finding ways to stem the tide of domestic and sexual violence is the mission of the Lebanon non profit organization WISE. But one of the obstacles faced by people who work on these issues is that numerous misconceptions still exist about where and how often domestic and sexual violence occur, and to whom.

“People don’t really understand how much is happening and what it looks like,” said Abby Tassel, WISE’s assistant director. The voices of the victims are not always heard, because of self-censorship, the stigma attached, and the structure of a legal system that tends to put the burden of proof on the violated rather than the violator.

Unedited Voices of the Upper Valley, a WISE-sponsored evening of stories, songs and dance by and about victims of sexual and domestic abuse at 7:30 tonight at the Lebanon Opera House, begins a conversation about the issue. It is free of charge to the public. It runs about 90 minutes, Tassel said, and there will be one intermission.

Performers include the Raqs Salaam Dance Theater, djembe player Sayon Camara, and the Hanover High School a capella group DaChords. The production is directed by New York actor and director Kathe Mull.

The evening grew out of conversations by WISE staff and volunteers, who realized that they needed another way to bring a wider focus to the issues, Tassel said. Out of that came the idea of having people actually tell their stories in a public forum, unmediated by the press and the courts.

“It’s a community issue and the community really needs to pull together around the issue,” Tassel said. When people think about sexual or domestic abuse, they might think about one incident, or assign it to one socio-economic class. But the reality is that sexual and domestic abuse can span a person’s lifetime, they’re pervasive and they cut across class lines.

Mull helped shape the disparate narratives into “the arc of a real theater piece,” Tassel said. “This ability to come together to speak the truth seems to have been very powerful. Having the community there to witness it feels really important.”

Unedited Voices of the Upper Valley begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Lebanon Opera House. For more information call 603-448-5922 or go to http://www.wiseoftheuppervalley.org/contact.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.