Living “in Courage”: “Cheyanne’s Story” honored to be in the BolderLife Festival

(This blog is written by Regina Ress, board member of Healing Voices-Personal Stories.)
BLF 2014 official Selection WHITE-2Healing Voices-Personal Stories’ film Cheyanne’s Story has been selected for the Bolder Life Festival this October! The story of a courageous high school girl who found herself in an abusive relationship and who not only managed to get help and extricate herself from it, but who, while still in school, became an advocate for domestic & teen violence awareness is a perfect fit for BolderLife.

“To live in Courage” What jumped out to me from BolderLife’s statements about its mission on its website  is its advocacy of living a lifein courage.” Indeed, the title of this 501 (c)  (3) organization, BolderLife, implies a life lived with confidence, strength, clarity and risk. The word “courage” means to have “heart.” To live a life with heart and strength. And Cheyanne, the young woman in our film, is a wonderful model for young people in how to find that strength and confidence while maintaining heart. The frightened high school girl emerges as a courageous young woman.

How do we encourage our young people….and, indeed, all of us, to live “in courage” as opposed to fear. BolderLife seeks to bring the message of courage to counteract the many messages in our popular media of fear and shame. Through its festival and other outreach programs, BolderLife uses the arts as a vehicle for exploring life, fostering social and emotional education, and inspiring change. It hosts local high schools and middle schools for a day of films and conversation. It “introduces difficult and taboo topics through a variety of arts and “deepens the conversation with professional speakers and workshops that help audiences explore discomfort, cultivate mindfulness” and..yes, “to live in courage.”

We at Healing Voices-Personal Stories are so honored that Cheyanne’s Story will be part of this fine festival with its focus on both art and education. And in particular, we are delighted that the festival’s focus this year is on domestic violence. 50% of the programming proceeds will be donated to SafeHouse Denver, a non-profit organization which serves victims of domestic violence through both an emergency shelter and non-residential Counseling and Advocacy Center.

The BolderLife Festival will be held at the Holiday Event Center, 2644 W. 32nd Avenue, in Denver the week of October, 13th-19th. Check out this impressive organization’s website.

DVD’s of “Cheyanne’s Story”

We are pleased that DVD’s of this film are available free of charge for shelters and organizations to help education and provide an example of a domestic violence survivor. Included on the Cheyanne’s Story DVD is “A Teacher’s Story” in which Cheyanne’s teacher talks about having her as a student and about Cheyanne’s class project about domestic violence.  If you would like to receive a copy  please email  You can also go to the Healing Voices website and stream both “Cheyanne’s Story” and “Peggy’s Story”.  User Guides are  available on line.

Regina Ress is a storyteller, actor, educator, author.  Board Member Healing Voices-Personal Stories; adjunct faculty, New York University and Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Regina believes that “Storytelling connects us to each other and to the deepest parts of ourselves.” Visit her website and Facebook page.


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The Burning Bed: Thirty Years Later

Our third subject, Jessica, whose film will be completed in the spring, speaks about this movie and the impact it had on her. Thank you guest blogger, Danielle Kuffler, for writing this review of the film.

The Burning Bed, a NBC TV film directed by Robert Greenwald, opens in the small town of Dansville, Michigan on March 9, 1977. Francine Hughes, played by Farah Fawcett, tells her three young children to wait in the car as she sets fire to the home where her husband, Mickey, is sleeping. Mickey burns with the house, and Francine turns herself in for murder.

The rest of the film portrays, in flashbacks told by Francine to her lawyer, the 14 years of brutal abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. Concluding with her trial where she is found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, the film reveals the many-faceted horrors of domestic abuse and the tragic outcome that seems inevitable in the face of a lifetime of violence.

Thirty years later, the film is still powerful in its careful depiction of the nuances of abuse. Francine’s story is not only horrifying, but it’s also frustrating. The tale is a slow build to the dramatic climax – she divorces Mickey early on in the film, but just can’t seem to get away. She takes the kids and moves into her own house, but later rents a place next door to Mickey to nurse him after he injures himself. She attempts to have him arrested, but the authorities don’t do much to help her. Without money or prospects, she is trapped in a cycle of violence: Mickey abuses her, he apologizes, his family and Francine’s mother encourage her to forgive him and fulfill her duties as his wife, she resists but gives in, he abuses her, and so on, until she is finally driven to destroy him.

Francine first meets Mickey at a party in 1963. They are classic stereotypes of young lovers: she is sweet, beautiful and innocent, while he is “really wild,” the restless rebel.

She approaches him, refuses a cigarette but tells him she’s “not afraid of anything,” and soon enough they are slow dancing and making plans for a second date.

Mickey psychologically forces Francine into sex before marriage, telling her she will “destroy” him if she won’t give in. After marriage he drifts from job to job and becomes a heavy drinker, never taking on the traditional male role of provider and patriarch. He lashes out against impotence at the one thing he can control: his relationship with Francine. He objectifies and beats her whenever he is down. After every outburst, he slinks back to her, seeking her forgiveness and love to mend his delicate ego.

Guilty over losing her virginity and pressured by the women around her, Francine forces herself into marriage and motherhood. Her independence and identity are constantly under threat, and her ultimate triumph over Mickey is fraught with guilt. Before her trial, she tells her lawyer: “I loved him. I did.”  Francine reacted to an extreme situation with an extreme action, but it seems she will never escape the psychological damage.

In 1984, Francine’s story offered a perspective rarely heard, and The Burning Bed sparked national attention to the plight of domestic violence victims everywhere. The opening line of the film speaks to the destruction of identity that is the result of abuse:  “I felt like I was watching myself.” Today, the film is a reminder of how far we have come in recognizing and taking action against domestic violence, and how far we still have to go when it comes to equality and rights for all.

Danielle Kuffler, an Arizona native recently transplanted to Southern California, is a reader, writer and researcher with concerns about women’s rights.

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News App Provides Help, Discreetly for Domestic Violence Victims

A Guest Post by Danielle Kuffler, an Arizona native recently transplanted to Southern California, is a reader, writer and researcher with concerns about women’s rights.
           ASPIRE News, an app released in November by the When Georgia Smiled: Robin DeGraw Foundation offers a resource to those seeking help with domestic violence. At first glance, the app looks like a regular news source, but the Help section contains information and aid for those in abusive relationships. 
          From Jezebel, an online women’s interest publication:
[…] This is a brilliant idea because it puts information right at the fingertips of the people who need it most. Its creators — one of whom is Robin McGraw, Dr. Phil’s wife — took snooping into account by disguising it as a news service which will misdirect an abusive partner, or a friend who is just flicking through the phone.
          There is also a “go” button in the help section that alerts local authorities and chosen contacts that the user is in trouble. While it’s no substitute for emergency services, the app is an empowering tool for anyone in a potentially violent situation.
          The app is free and available for iPhone and Android. 
          Via Jezebel.
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Peggy Luplow presents Programs in North Eastern New Mexico

peggy 4_edited-1The subject of our first film, “Peggy’s Story” spoke in Clayton and Raton, New Mexico during October, presenting her own video of leaving a 15 year abuse marriage to rebuild her life and our second film on teen and date violence “Cheyanne’s Story“.  These communities  observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month each year with a moving  Candlelight Vigil complete with the help of: local school’s cheerleaders and glee clubs; monetary award presentations by the Kiwanis; the Professional Women’s Association; local law enforcement; and proclamations by their respective Mayor’s Office.  Peggy was presented with a t-shirt commemorating the recent “Knock-Out” fundraiser.  Peggy’s attendance at events of this nature serve to enhance the video’s message as she answers  questions following her presentation as well as discussing domestic violence issues.

On this occasion, Peggy spoke of the amazing similarities between “Cheyanne’s Story” and her own, remarking that although their situations of abuse occurred over 30 years apart, in two completely different cultures with close to 1,000 miles separating them – the guilt, struggles, fear and hope expressed were the same.  The high attendance and participation by the community representing all ages was so impressive and reaffirmed the fact that we all long for the right to live in our own homes without fear.  Audiences in both towns responded without hesitation when Peggy asked them if they agreed that this right should be a basic human right. The video showing was so well received and highly valued that a prominent teacher, attending from a nearby town, immediately requested that they be presented to his entire student body.  Plans are already underway to make Peggy and Cheyanne’s Stories available.

If you would like to arrange for Peggy to speak at your community event please contact us.

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Charles Naul, A New Volunteer continues to be an outstanding resource for finding excellent people to help our small non-profit grow. First we located JoAnna Smith who redesigned our logo.  Next Shivaun joined our team making contact with domestic violence shelters in five states (California, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon) letting then know about our organization, getting permission to add them to our email list and seeing if they might want a free DVD of our first film, “Peggy’s Story.”  Three writers have written guest posts.  And now Charles Naul has advised us and updated our database so that we can truly expand our reach to more organization in an easy seamless way.

When Charles responded to our request for database help, we received a notification indicating that he was retired from IBM and had extensive experience in building and maintaining databases.  In just a few days he had a model for Shivaun and I to test.  And WOW… does it work.  Now Shivaun simply puts her information in and I can request a report of what names to add to our email list and who has requested a DVD without Shivaun having to do extra work.  We are ready for lots more volunteers who can work at their own pace from their home and I can easy do a report that will summarize all that needs to be done from my end.  If you are reading this and have time and like to talk to people and enter information into a database. please consider helping us. 

It’s been a pleasure to work with Charles and we look forward to getting more suggestions and help from him as we grow.  Charles also uses his background to recycle laptops for Global Missionary Activities so that they can be used in very poor countries.  Thank you Charles! He is index a good example for those of us retired to see how to use our talents in this new chapter in our lives. 


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The Teen Experience?

Guest Blogger Kristine Ambrosch reviews our new film “Cheyanne’s Story.”   Kristine Ambrosch is from Queens, New York and is currently an English major at Hunter College.  She has always loved to read and understood early on how the written word has the ability to influence people’s thoughts and actions.  Kristine also loves animals and enjoys doing arts and crafts.

Review of “Cheyanne’s Story”

For many teenage girls falling for a “bad boy” is often harmless.  But for Cheyanne, dating a “bad boy” meant being threatened with a knife.  She felt certain he would kill her. Seeing the young Cheyanne in the Healing Voice’s film relive her violent experience is shocking.  While her classmates were worried about their grades, Cheyanne was worried about dying.

IMG_0320At first Cheyanne thought she could be the one to change her boyfriend’s malevolent attitude.  Even as he elbowed her in the face Cheyanne stayed with him and continued to push away her friends and family.  Her boyfriend further isolated her by deleting her friends’ numbers off of her phone.  Once Cheyanne realized her boyfriend’s possessive manner was dangerous, she was able to go to her mother for help.  However assistance was not easy; the first police officer they went to knew the boyfriend’s father and did not report the crime.

In addition to being physically abused, Cheyanne’s self worth was also being damaged.  Cheyanne’s boyfriend told her that she “looked ugly with curled hair” so Cheyanne stopped styling her hair in curls.  However, once she was able to escape his control with help from a different police department, she curled her hair again and found it made her smile.  This joy in the seemingly ordinary act of curling her hair is a moment in the film when viewers are reminded just how harmful domestic violence can be not just physically but also emotionally.  It is the point when we rejoice with Cheyanne as her curled hair reveals the return of her confidence, a trait that is already difficult for a teenage girl to hold onto.

When the new school year began, Cheyanne was determined to make her story known.  She dedicated her time to researching about teen violence and started the “Say Something Project.”  She raised money for her cause and informed others what she and many others have experienced.  Through the open classroom her teacher provided, Cheyanne was able to share her story with her classmates who were stunned by their peer’s terrifying experience but also inspired by her dedication to helping other mistreated girls.

Unfortunately Cheyanne’s abusive relationship is not uncommon.  However, Cheyanne is unique in that she found the strength to overcome her fear, report her boyfriend to the police even with his retaliation a possibility, and then share with others the horror she and many others endure as high school students.  Healing Voices has allowed Cheyanne to use her newfound voice to inform an even larger audience about domestic violence and how it hurts not only adults but also teens.  Cheyanne’s words encourage viewers to not be like the police officer who ignored her abuse.  Instead viewers are inspired to emulate the strong Cheyanne, her loving mother, and her teacher who created a setting where Cheyanne could safely share and educate others about teen violence, a too often overlooked issue.


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Local, National and International Press Coverage on Domestic Violence

The past few days saw some excellent coverage on Domestic Violence.  On a very local level, The Steamboat Pilot/Today featured statistics and stories of what is happening in Routt County, Colorado.  This article resonates with Healing Voices as Board Member Lindarose Berkley lives in Steamboat Springs and our Advisory Board Member Diane Moore, Executive Director of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, is quoted in the article.  A unique feature of the article are two sidebars:  one is a detailed list of warming signs of Domestic Violence; the other defines the different forms of Domestic Violence.  The article opens with relating the most horrific form of Domestic Violence, where the victim is murdered, “all murder-suicides or attempted murder-sucidies have left four people dead” in Routt County.

Board Member, Regina Ress sent this link to an article published yesterday in the NY Times which calls for more aid not just laws in Italy.  Just this year 80 women have been killed in Domestic Violence incidents in Italy. Prime Minister Enrico Letta has called for stiffer laws while critics are calling for more aid for victims before they are murdered.  A UN reports that one in three women between the ages of 18 and 70 will experience Domestic Violence in Italy.  Domestic Violence is also “the most pervasive form of violence” in Italy.  The title of the article says it all “A Call for Aid, Not Laws”.

If you have seen a recent article on Domestic Violence please pass it along.

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