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.
They were scrawled with words like, “I’m not broken;” “We will survive being raped;” “Walk away. Don’t ever look back;” and “Please don’t touch me. I know it’s OK to tell on you.”
Hall said raising awareness about domestic violence is so important because some victims still think the abuse is their fault.
“It’s such a silent epidemic in this community,” Hall said.
In 2011, the Kokomo Police Department responded to an average of four domestic violence calls per day.
“That’s huge,” Hall said.
And a lot of those women and their children end up at FSA’s domestic violence shelter, Hall said. The shelter serves more women every year, she said.
“The numbers have gone up,” she said. “The numbers are always rising.”
Tuesday’s event raised money for the shelter. People participating in the Angel Walk collected donations.
The fundraiser brought in about $27,000 last year. FSA officials were hoping for $30,000 this year. The results of the fundraiser weren’t immediately available Tuesday.
Whatever money came in, though, would be a huge help, Hall said.
“That money is crucial to the services we provide,” she said. “Without it, we have no shelter.”
• Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8585 or email@example.com