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Local play brings teen dating violence to the fore

Jeannette Ross
Sunny Stanfield, left, and Collette Pozuelo are co-presidents of the Wilton Teen PeaceWorks club. The club will present a number of awareness-raising events next month in recognition of February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (Jeanette Ross photo)

by Jeannette Ross

Editor

The prom dress. Symbol of youth, love and never-ending tomorrows. Or not.

In the play The Yellow Dress, a girl’s prom dress is a symbol of her hopes and dreams for the future. Instead, it is the dress she dies in, killed — murdered — by her boyfriend.

The Yellow Dress will be presented Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. at Wilton Library by the Teen PeaceWorks club at Wilton High School, the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force, and the library.

The one-character play features a young professional actress who recounts her relationship with her boyfriend.

“We were together all the time and when we weren’t together we’d be on the phone,” she says, giddy with the prospect of new love. Eventually what seemed like devotion turned to control.

“He would check up on me with my girlfriends.”

“He knew my password so he would read my emails.”

“It was as if I belonged to him, which made me happy, I guess. I was glad to belong somewhere.”

She tells how their relationship devolves from “I love you” to “you’re stupid.” Then things turn ugly physically.

Then he kills her.

“How could someone who loved me do this?” she asks.

The Yellow Dress is a production of Deana’s Educational Theater of Wakefield, Mass., which works to prevent relationship violence. Intended for mature teens and adults, it is based on the stories of young women who were victims of dating violence. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Collette Pozuelo, co-president of the PeaceWorks club with Sunny Stanfield. Both girls are seniors at Wilton High School.

She said the club could have presented the play in school, “but we wanted to put it out there in the community.”

The play will be the centerpiece of the club’s outreach efforts for February, which is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

“In the past, events have been heavily educational in nature … with adult speakers,” Sunny said.

“Even having a keynote speaker can be boring,” Collette said. “We wanted something more appealing.”

The girls became aware of the play through Claudia Cardenas, director of counseling at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk and Stamford, which sponsors Teen PeaceWorks programs in a number of area schools.

This is the first year Teen PeaceWorks is an official club at Wilton High, and there are about 10 members, including, for the first time, one young man. Most of them have undergone a nine-hour training program that qualifies them to recognize the signs of dating violence and to educate others.

During the first full week of February in school, Feb. 4-8, the club will also promote One Billion Rising — a global campaign to raise awareness about violence against women: one billion women will be beaten or raped in their lifetime.

Members of the club will also be at the Village Market Saturday, Feb. 9, from 9 to 2, selling One billion Rising T-shirts. Shirts will also be sold at the library event Feb. 6.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Center plans events for Feb. 14, in conjunction with One Billion Rising events around the world.

Future plans

Both Sunny and Collette joined the club a few years ago after having “been exposed to a situation of dating abuse among teens,” Sunny said. “I wondered how I could make a difference.”

Although both girls will be graduating in June, they hope to leave a legacy through the club by getting more boys to join and getting student-athletes involved in the cause, whether it is volleyball players wearing purple ribbons or football players wearing purple “war” paint.

They would also like to see greater emphasis placed on the subject at school, much as has happened with bullying.

The health curriculum, they said, could do more at each level in high school to address the subject of healthy relationships.

“We are looking for them to have a more extensive discussion” at each grade level, they said.

Sensing some resistance at school prompted the club to bring the issue to the community at large, hence The Yellow Dress presentation at the library.

Admission is free, but donations will be welcome.

Registration is required: wiltonlibrary.org or 203-762-3950, ext. 213. For information about Deana’s Educational Theater, visit deanaseducationaltheater.org.

For information on the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, visit dvccct.org. The hotline number is 1-888-774-2900.

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