The room fell silent as Emma Goodman walked on stage, ready to perform the one-woman play “The Yellow Dress,” sponsored by SGA, in the Forum last Thursday.
In “The Yellow Dress,” the character Anna spoke to the audience about her experiences with her boyfriend Rick. Anna began the play by telling the audience about a dance that she plans to attend, and how she doesn’t have a date but has to go to tell Rick’s new girlfriend what kind of person he is. She asked the audience if this goal seems pathetic before she decides to tell the full story of her and Rick, revealing him to be an abuser.
They met in college and fell in love. Anna told how Rick showed signs of his obsessive behavior towards the beginning of their relationship – how he “romantically” told her what to eat and what not to eat by ordering for her at restaurants, when he gave her a new phone, but looked through her texts and emails and when he began to refer to her as “bitch” when she did something that upset him.
Anna casually expressed to the audience the ways Rick would emotionally abuse her before he ever put his hands on her. She openly told about how he would call her fat and ugly, but she would brush it off because she knew she wasn’t. Rick would tell Anna that no other guys would be attracted to her, so she had to stay with him. Anna confessed that she began to believe him.
Anna’s tone did not become solemn until she told about the first time Rick hurt her physically. He punched her in the face for talking to another guy.
The pattern of abuse is clear in Anna and Rick’s relationship when she talks about how her friends tried to help her, but she became “too afraid to tell the truth.”
Finally, Anna left the stage and returned in a short yellow dress that had been blood-stained down the left side. The source of the blood seemed to be coming from Anna’s head. It wasn’t clear that Rick had eventually beaten Anna to death until she decided to show the audience this yellow dress, which “would be perfect for the dance.”
She hesitantly told the audience about how she had broken up with Rick successfully when he choked her until she blacked out – another guy had his arm around her at a party. After this caused a scene, he brought her back to her dorm and had sex with her against her will. She woke up the next morning without clothes on, and ended it with him immediately.
Anna’s friends became sympathetic when she talked about how Rick would harass her after their break-up. He would sit in his car outside of her dorm, call her and hang up, then call her again and say that he was going to kill himself. She then talked about how she felt weak because she still wanted to talk to him, and was jealous when she found out that he was going to the dance with another girl.
The day before the dance, Rick asked Anna to go for a drive with him. She matter-of-factly told the audience, “Well … I fell for it,” and continued to talk about how Rick asked to get back together and she refused. He responded by hitting her head on the inside of the car door, repeatedly, until her body went limp.
Anna cried out about how he dragged her body out of the car and dumped it into a ditch by the river. She said nobody knew where her body was, and that she is one of many women who had been killed by an abusive partner. Anna wanted to tell her story to let the others speak up as well.
After the play, Emma Goodman and Tim Hoover, actors from Deana’s Educational Theater (a theatre group based in Wakefield, MA dedicated to preventing violence) led a discussion about domestic abuse. They asked the audience what they thought of Anna’s situation, whether or not anything was her fault and what they would do if they were a friend of Anna’s or Rick’s.
“I thought it was very eye opening,” said junior Caitlin Murray. “I feel like many people only think of domestic abuse as physical, and forget about the emotional part of it. I wish all of campus saw the play – I think it’s a topic we need to be better educated on.”
Students were encouraged to talk about the subject openly in order to get victims of domestic abuse to feel like they are in a safe enough environment to tell others about their situations.
“I feel like I learned more about how to help a friend in this situation, or how to personally get help if in the situation,” senior and SGA President Kendall Valente said. “I like how she made the audience make it personal and think about their own friends.”
At the end of the event, students were encouraged to visit the Health Center for support if they knew anyone in this situation, or were in one themselves.