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Central Coast nonprofit aims to bring awareness to abuse and trauma restoration through theater

Courtesy of David Norum

In the United States, approximately 20 people are physically abusedhttps://ncadv.org/STATISTICS by an intimate partner every minute. That’s more than 10 million people each year.

Those people are closer to home than you may think.

In the upcoming play titled “My Name Is,” the Central Coast-based group Resilient Souls tells the story of one individual and her survival of domestic violence.

The group is a nonprofit organization dedicated to trauma restoration. “My Name Is” will feature 17 performers who are survivors of the group who will take part in Resilient Soul’s first fundraiser and staged-reading performance.

“My Name Is” will be performed at Vintage Community in Templeton on June 18 and 19.

The performance will feature live music and art created by survivors of the group as well as a discussion panel with trauma experts from Mending the Soul, a peer support program, following the performance.

“Our society is not trauma-informed,” Resilient Souls Founder and President Lisa Majors said. “We're coming from the survivors’ point of view, where we're actually using it as a healing tool for our own survivors.”

The actual play, originally written as a five-minute monologue, dates back nearly ten years. Several years after writing it, playwright David Norum expanded the monologue into a 30-minute, one-act play for an Arroyo Grande High School student, and eventually into a full-length play.

Norum’s involvement in the play traces back to more than just his work as a playwright.

“It started when I was an investigator with the Monterey County District Attorney's Office, and [Annie] reported a case of domestic violence to the sheriff's department there,” Norum said.

Beginning in 2007, Norum helped investigate the case of a woman named Annie, who asked KCBX not to use her last name because of the sensitivity of the topic. The case lasted 18 months and was Norum’s final case.

“A big part of the purpose of this play is to show all the red flags that were ignored by friends and neighbors and family, and the system and the police and everything — and how this kind of thing could go on under people's noses for almost 20 years before it finally got resolved,” he said.

“My Name Is” centers around Annie, a survivor of and now-fighter for victims of domestic violence.

She says the play provides an opportunity to point out how common intimate partner violence is.

“This happens everyday all around us and we don't know, because it's silent,” Annie said. “One of the big things about domestic violence and intimate partner violence is the secrecy of it all, right? Behind closed doors. No one knows.”

Credit Courtesy of David Norum

While she has never considered playing the role herself, Annie relives her past trauma each time she is in the audience, watching her story come alive, and working closely with Norum to accurately portray her story.

“Nothing goes into the play without her kind of double-checking, making sure of its accuracy and suitability,” Norum said.

While many of the performers in the play have been through similar experiences of trauma in their own lives, it does not stop the concern Annie has for how her story may affect them.

“My main concern is that all of the people who are survivors — who are performing — that they stay healthy, that they take care of themselves during this process,” Annie said.

Musician and actress Julz Muya plays Annie in the performance and has found her own way of sharing Annie’s story, while processing her own trauma.

“It's like a therapy session,” Muya said. “It's like going into her world and understanding it. So I think it's just me doing my own inner-healing work that has caused me to be able to do this — to play this part,” Muya said.

Because the play is centered around a topic that may not be welcomed or understood in many conversations, Annie encourages people to go into performances like this with an open mind.

“We, as victims, aren't there because we want to be. We aren't there because it's easy to get out, as most people think it is. Right? Because it's not. It’s very complex,” Annie said.

Norum says through his work, he has seen trends surrounding this type of abuse.

“What I learned investigating domestic violence cases and sexual assaults and child molesters — and all those things are related in the fact that the same dynamic, the same power dynamic between the offender and the victims is the same,” he said.

Despite the trauma Annie still lives with today, she understands not everyone will understand her domestic violence case against her ex-husband.

“There are going to be folks who empathize with my ex-husband and not with me, and that's the reality of the world, as being human,” she said.

Annie has also shared her story in a recently-published book of her poems and stories centered about her history of abuse, titled “Brave New Peace.”

To purchase tickets or find out more about the event, click here.

For those who are experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual assault, visit the following resources to seek help:

SLO County Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault

Stand Strong Now

Resilient Souls

Rise SLO

The KCBX Arts Beat is made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County.

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