Hometown: West Warwick, RI
Degree: Psychology , Gender and Women’s Studies
Senior Gabriella Cortes, 22, started her internship at the R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence on the same day a group of 15 women who’d survived abuse were starting to write a script.
Representing many ethnicities and ages, the women of the task force SOAR, Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships, had been journaling about their experiences. Now they were turning their survival stories into a play called Behind Closed Doors.
“It was eye-opening,” said Gabriella. “They were very severe stories and the courage it took to tell them was inspiring.”
Gabriella, a psychology and gender and women’s studies major, went through the creative process with the women. The final production, helped along by the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, was so strong that Gabriella arranged for it to be staged at URI last December. The University’s Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services Program coordinator, Keith Labelle, described Behind Closed Doors as the most powerful event on domestic violence that he had ever seen, and students who attended wrote rave reviews.
After the Kingston Campus performance, one young woman in the audience found her voice. She stood and said she was experiencing abuse.
“Everyone just went silent,” Gabriella said. “But that was the goal. Make that change. It was her moment to burst. How many out there are just like her?”
Passionate about raising awareness and helping others, Gabriella plans to attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree in counseling. With domestic violence affecting one in four women, her big idea is to help give these women a voice and to inspire more support for organizations and programs to help.