A red T-shirt emblazoned with the words “love shouldn’t hurt” hung from a clothesline inside Indiana University Kokomo Tuesday night.
A few feet away, a woman named Kelly told a group of about 600 people that for her, love did hurt — for 25 years.
Kelly is a survivor of domestic violence. She shared her story during the annual Take Back the Night rally and Angel Walk, hosted by Indiana University Kokomo and the Family Services Association.
“It’s hard to convey the horrors I experienced over 25 years in 3 to 5 minutes,” Kelly told the crowd.
Her last name was withheld for her protection.
Kelly chronicled her three marriages, which were all marred by physical and emotional abuse.
One husband shoved her across the bedroom more times than she could count.
One husband threw her into a window and slammed her against her car.
One husband forced her to perform sexual acts that humiliated and hurt her.
She said she felt so damaged that at one point she tried to commit suicide, but each time she found a way to get out of the marriage.
“It sounds like I left those marriages easily, but I didn’t,” she told the crowd. “They stalked me and threatened me.”
But there is hope. Kelly is now going to school at Ivy Tech Community College and has been abuse-free for more than five years.
“Life is good, and I’m in charge of it,” she said.
FSA Director of Development Barb Hall said Kelly’s message was a powerful one.
“There might be someone in the crowd who is going through the exact same thing,” she said. “It shows them there is still hope. They can see that there is life afterwards. There is more than just this.”
Other IU Kokomo students shared their abuse stories silently. They created T-shirts branded with messages of struggle and hope. The shirts hung on a clothesline at the campus.