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Robin Givens, Kenyette Barnes Empower Students To Take Stand Against Domestic Violence

Robin Givens and Kenyette Barnes took Heritage Hall by storm Thursday night as part of the Student Programming Association (SPA)’s collaboration with the Gender Equity Center. The two powerfully discussed their personal experiences with domestic abuse, how to spot domestic violence, and how they are supporting women through activism.

Givens is widely known as an actress on the hit shows “Head of the Class” and “Riverdale.” She is the co-chair of the Women Who Care organization and author of her biography Grace Will Lead Me Home, which details her experiences with domestic abuse and the courage it took to leave her violent husband.

Barnes is a political strategist, lobbyist, public speaker, mother, and the National Co-Founder of #MuteRKelly. She is known for her work with the Georgia General Assembly and public speaking on sexual violence, anti-human trafficking, HIV advocacy, and domestic abuse.

Givens began the night by recounting her experience with domestic abuse at a young age and the effects growing up in the spotlight had on her well-being.

“It was a lifetime ago. I had to understand how I ended up in that situation,” Givens said. “I had a lot of things in order in my life except who I was.”

Thinking back to her first encounter with abuse, Givens advised that “a slightest bit of discomfort is your red flag.” She recalls never hearing the words “you’re beautiful and smart” from her husband behind closed doors, despite “everything looking great on the outside.”

Barnes then spoke on how she’s currently trying to raise awareness that financial abuse within a relationship is real abuse and should be taken seriously.

“We don’t always talk about the non-physical forms,” Barnes noted. “Other forms of abuse cripple survivors.”

The Atlanta native stressed the importance of not “over-loving” someone and recognizing when one is being “over-loved” or smothered in a relationship. She calls this “love bombing.”

“In the beginning love feels so high,” Barnes said. “When you are feeling over-loved you need to take a step back. If not, this is where the abuse starts.”

As for activism, Barnes said that it is a mixture of “passion, strategy, and sustained pressure.” She has most recently been honored for her efforts to send the former singer R. Kelly to jail through the #MuteRKelly movement.

“To be honest, the #MuteRKelly movement started from coffee and mutual outrage,” said Barnes.

Both speakers said that the best way to deal with domestic abuse is to talk to others who have gone through similar experiences.

“My story was their story. I realized I needed to give a voice to women who didn’t have one,” said Givens.

Through conversation, women are more likely to heal and live a healthier and more normal lives after going through traumatic experiences.

“The healthier we are, the more likely we are to make healthier decisions and choose a healthier partner,” said Givens.

To end the night, Barnes and Givens agreed that every young woman should feel valuable and the most important relationship to have is the one with yourself.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a senior from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves coffee and bagels, traveling, and keeping a healthy balance between watching the news and reality television. Follow her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at [email protected].

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