“He told me he loved me,” Anna, the main character of “The Yellow Dress,” told the audience. The one-woman play about the dangers of sexual assault was performed Monday, April 17 in the New Library Auditorium.
Sponsored by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), the performance was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month programming.
About 50 people, the majority of which were females, were in attendance for the performance, which was produced by Deana’s Fund, an educational theater program that explores serious issues in its performances.
Since the topic of the show was sensitive, a doctor from the College’s office of Psychological Counseling Services was around if an audience member felt that they needed someone to talk to.
The show focused on Anna, who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Rick for three years. “The show tries to guide you through the natural cycle of abuse,” Claire Shinkman, a professional actress who played the character of Anna, said.
Speaking directly to the audience, Anna described the beginning of their relationship – how sweet and funny Rick was, how all of her friends and family loved him, how well he knew her.
This is when the warning signs of abuse were introduced. Rick knew what Anna liked, so he would order for her at restaurants. He would buy her expensive gifts, like a cell phone. He would call her friends to check up on her. Anna thought these things were sweet, and took them all as signs of how close they were in their relationship.
In the discussion held after the performance, Shinkman stressed the point that these actions don’t necessarily mean that someone is being abused. “None of these things on their own are bad things,” she said.
As the play went on, Anna described how the relationship started to become abusive about a year after they began dating.
At first it wasn’t physical, but Rick began to accuse her of cheating, and insult her clothes, her looks and how she acted. He also began to call Anna names, like “slut” and “bitch” and accused her of being stupid. Anna started to believe these insults and started to do everything that Rick wanted.
Rick then started to abuse her physically – hitting her where bruises wouldn’t be visible, pulling her hair. Anna didn’t want to tell anyone, but people began to notice that things weren’t exactly right in their relationship. Rick no longer let Anna hang out with her friends, and her residence advisor at college began to see Rick being more physical toward Anna and even approached Anna about it.
“Why didn’t Anna tell anyone? Why did Anna put up with Rick and his abuse? Because she loved him!” Shinkman said after the performance. “And despite his actions, Rick continued to tell Anna he loved her.”
Anna continued to put up with his abuse until one night at a party when Rick started to choke her. She and Rick were both drinking, and Rick lied to people when they asked why she had fainted. Still drunk, Rick and Anna went back to her dorm room, where Rick pressured Anna to have sex, despite her protests. She awoke the next morning to find that she had been raped.
Anna broke up with Rick the next day. “It becomes more complicated when drugs and alcohol are involved,” Shinkman said. “Do everything you can to prevent your friends from having drunk hookups. No one regrets the bad hookups they didn’t have.”
As the play progressed, Rick kept on trying to come back to Anna – calling her, stopping by her dorm. One day, he persuaded her to go for a drive with him just so they could talk. Rick apologized over and over again to her, telling her that he had changed. He wanted to start their relationship over, and even told her that if she didn’t want to, he would leave her alone once and for all.
“Saying no was the most dangerous thing she could have done,” Shinkman said. After her negative reaction to his pleadings, Rick began to beat Anna– – for the last time. He beat her to death. He dragged her body into a ditch and drove away.
The audience actively participated in the discussion after the performance. They talked about the subtle warning signs that people in relationships often miss. They talked about the difference between jealousy and possessiveness. They talked about how abuse can go on for a long time without anyone outside the relationship ever realizing what is going on. Several of the audience members admitted to having dealt with friends in abusive relationships, so the topic hit home with them.
“I was really excited to offer a program that connected sexual assault and dating violence,” Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, coordinator of the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, said. “Most people think that sexual assault is committed by strangers,”
“I thought it was an issue that needed to come up,” Julie Gilbert, treasurer of IVCF and senior biology major, said. Evidenced by the strong opinions and emotions in the audience, she was right.