“Amazing. I was very moved by last night’s performance. I can’t stop thinking about it all. I feel as if I understand my community much better now. When I walk down the street I think about what and who was once there. And am contemplating the future of all people in our community.”

2009 Sponsors and Partners:

Carolina Women’s Center
Duke Chapter Amnesty International
Duke Divinity School Women’s Center
Duke Human Rights Center
Duke Theatre Studies
Duke University Chapel
Duke University Women’s Center
Durham Crisis Response Center
Family Violence Prevention Center
Genesis Home
Mujer a Mujer
My Sister’s Place
NC Central University Psychology Department
NC Central University Women’s Center
North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Women’s Studies at Duke University
Orange County Rape Crisis Center
Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South
UNC Beacon Program
UNC School of Nursing
UNC-CH School of Public Health
UNC-CH School of Social Work
Walk in My Shoes
Women’s Studies, Duke University

Speaking Without Tongues:

What is not spoken is still heard

“The women and girls who live this story do not want to be seen. They tell their stories in dim light, in rooms with tightly closed doors; they glance at windows to be sure there is no opening. They do not want to remember. They do not want to speak. No matter. What is not spoken is still heard.” Speaking Without Tongues

Speaking Without Tongues explores violence and survival in the actual lives of women from diverse ethnic backgrounds across North Carolina.

We celebrate these women, their courage, and the power of community to strengthen and heal.

“My father beat my mother senseless. Broke her nose. Gave her black eyes. Sometimes, when they were arguing at night, she would come sleep with me for protection. I remember waking in the middle of the night, my mother carrying me, running in the grass, running to safety in someone else’s apartment. It was always something. I was 9 when my mother left my father. He cried and cried. I wanted so much for her to go back. I had seen her with a broken nose, bruises everywhere, teeth missing, but I wanted her to go back to him.”

Violence against women and girls is a major human rights issue and a global phenomenon of epidemic proportions. It is pervasive. Violence affects our sisters, our mothers, our co-workers, and our children. Statistics show that 1 in 3 women in the United States has experienced abuse; in some countries the numbers are 8 in 10. We have yet to meet a woman who does not know another woman abused as a child, a teen, or an adult.

“I had restraining orders in every county. I was looking at his record and it was like: assault on a female, Alamance County; assault on a female, Orange; assault on a female, Durham — and that was all me, and he never served a year for all those things. He got an ankle bracelet and a curfew . . . I got so many head injuries the doctor said I looked like a boxer.”

Every nine seconds, a woman is abused by her husband or intimate partner. That is almost 4,000,000 injuries to women each year.




The State of Things


On Stage

The ensemble of African-American, Arab, Euro-American, Latina, and South Asian women are not actors.They are courageous survivors willing to explore their own experiences, tell their own stories, and give voice to other women who share their struggle but cannot speak for themselves. Using these personal stories from survivors across NC, along with original music by Shirlette Ammons, Catherine Edgerton, and Shannon O’Neill, Speaking Without Tongues uncovers and expresses the almost unspeakable truths of too many contemporary lives. The survival stories are difficult but undeniably inspiring. Looking steadfastly at both realities allows us to enter a realm in which awareness grows and healing thrives.

The ArtsCenter

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

North Carolina Central University

Reynolds Theatre, Duke University




The ArtsCenter

Duke Chapel

Triangle Family Services: January

North Carolina Central University

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill





Their Own Words




Genesis Home

Mujer a Mujer

My Sister’s Place





Duke University Exhibit Reception and Remembrance

Friends of the Library

Mahogany Awards, Carolina Theatre, Durham





How to Make a Difference

Check out this blog on Domestic Violence Month mentioning Speaking Without Tongues.

The impetus for Speaking Without Tongues arose when an audience member from an earlier project, Rewind, asked to speak with us privately.  It was her 40th birthday and to mark that occasion, she gave us the gift of her story.  It was one of privation, abuse, and intimidation.  It was the story of a heroic woman determined to overcome her personal inheritance of pain by refusing to hand it to her own children.  We knew this was a story shared by many and we but we had no idea how many until we began to ask.  Some women spoke privately, others participated in workshops, some sent their thoughts in writing.  A few called on the phone.  They spoke of the threats, the beatings, the scars, the hiding, the terror.  They spoke of how they survived and of how they were finding their way into a tenuous but evolving freedom.  By the time Speaking Without Tongues debuted, more than 100 women had shared their stories.  The stage presentation, the music, the portraits, the boxes honor these women, those who spoke and those who still cannot.  Over the ensuing years, project components have traveled to various North Carolina towns, universities, non-profits, conferences, and public engagement events.  We hope the project continues to expand and to allow others to share their stories.