When Nancy Donoval told her close girlfriends she had been raped, she discovered that it also had happened to her best friend from elementary school (when the girl was in fourth grade) as well as to her best friend from college (when that girl was 11 years old).
"That was just shocking to me," said Donoval, a professional storyteller who is the featured artist next week for the Honor the Women program. The events will stretch over three days: Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 9-11.
Honor the Women is a fundraiser for the Rape/Sexual Assault Counseling & Advocacy program at Family Resources in Davenport. On Thursday, Donoval will present her one-woman performance, "The Road to Shameless: A Survivor's True Story of Rape and Recovery," at Augustana College in Rock Island.
The next day, she will be the featured speaker for the Honor the Women program and luncheon at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf.
Donoval has practiced her art of storytelling for 25 years. She weaves comedy into her routines, she said, explaining, "I use humor because ... if we are going into dark places in our lives, we'll need a flashlight."
While living in Minneapolis, Donoval was attending college and active in theater when she was sexually assaulted by a young man whom she considered a friend. That is one reason why she sought out a place in the Quad-Cites to speak to college-age students in addition to teenage girls and their parents.
After Donoval told Laura Swift, the event coordinator, about her wish to speak on a college campus, Swift contacted Jane Simonsen, an associate professor of history and women's and gender studies at Augustana.
That led to the Wednesday-Thursday events. The "Clothesline Project' kicks it off with a display of more than 100 T-shirts crafted by students as a statement against domestic violence.
Then Donoval will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wallenberg Hall inside the Denkmann Building and host a question-answer session afterward.
"A lot is going on these days with texting, social media, and all of that is wrapped up in discussions of gender violence," Simonsen said. The Augustana presentation will include a list of area resources for young women.
When she speaks with students, Simonsen finds that issues of domestic violence are well-known to them. The young women see it as unequal and unfair.
"Most students have experience with this, either to themselves, to a friend or a family member," she said.
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"It's an issue that students want to change," she said, adding that the students also feel strongly that men have a role to play in making that change.
Donoval seeks to put a face on the domestic violence statistics and to demystify the conversation that surrounds rape and sexual assault.
Her efforts, mixing painful facts with humor, will be welcome in the Quad-Cities, said Laura Swift, who chairs the committee organizing the third annual Honor the Women event.
"This year it felt right to laugh a little, cry a little and maybe laugh until we cry," she said.