Bravo: Jennifer Hopper & the Angel Band Project


Jennifer Hopper

Jennifer Hopper

I got to survive so I was gonna live an extraordinary life,
and you can’t live an extraordinary life when you’re angry.
– Jennifer Hopper

April 26 is always a rugged day for me. This year it falls on a Saturday ~ the same day of the week when Crystal Judson Brame was fatally shot in front of her kids by her estranged husband David, Tacoma, WA’s Chief of Police in 2003.  There was a huge dust-up, but nothing changed in Pierce County.  It remains one of the least safe places in the country for women and children.  As this blog approaches the 500K visitor milestone, I will confess that I can no longer muster zeal for outrage that seems to fall on deaf ears.

I needed the brave, courageous survivor story of Jennifer Hopper to inspire me to soldier on.  I didn’t know her name until last night, but her story is burned into my brain.  On July 19, 2009, Isaiah M.K. Kalebu, who slipped through the proverbial cracks in Pierce County, raped and murdered Ms. Hopper’s domestic partner Teresa Butz a month before the couple were to be married.  Ms. Butz sacrificed her life to save Ms. Hopper who was brutally stabbed and raped.  Ms. Hopper’s testimony at the trial was captured in Eli Sanders’ “The Bravest Woman in Seattle” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012.

Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper

Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper

I find myself craving to have my identity back. . .
I am not afraid. I am not ashamed.
I am still here. . .
 justice does not bring peace.
It only brings justice.
– Jennifer Hopper

In 2011, Ms. Hopper published her story in The Stranger: “I Would Like You to Know My Name: How My Life Changed After That Night in South Park.”  I hope you will click on the link to read it.  She wrote:

At the end of the day, there is nothing that can make this wrong right again. No final words or punishment can undo what’s been done.

There is a lot of good that has come out of this horror, and a lot that can still come.

Already, I have been given the gift of focus by some special angels in my life. Brandi Carlile and Kim Bogucki, who formed Fight the Fear Campaign (www.fightthefearcampaign.com), and in Teresa’s name have created a program that has taught hundreds of women the art of self-defense. Jean Fox and Rachel Ebeling, Teresa’s lifelong friends, who founded the Angel Band Project (www.angelbandproject.org), which created an album honoring Teresa’s life. Its proceeds aid the Voices and Faces Project (www.voicesandfaces.org), an effort that itself was created “to give voice and face to survivors of sexual violence” and to offer “a sense of solidarity to those who have lived through rape and abuse while raising awareness of how this human rights and public health issue impacts victims, families, and communities.”

Angel Band rehearsal

Angel Band Project rehearsal

I don’t know if I could have sung one note
if I hadn’t been on a path of peace and forgiveness
toward my attacker.
– Jennifer Hopper

The Angel Band Project was founded in St. Louis by Ms. Butz’s friends to fund music therapy for survivors of sexual assault.  Ms. Hopper found her own voice via singing.  Last night the Angel Band Project performed at Seattle’s Neptune Theater.  The event included a performance by Ms. Butz’s Tony Award winning brother, Norbert Leo Butz.  Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote about Ms. Hopper:

“When you’re assaulted, the first thing that goes is your voice,” she remembered of that night. “And I did speak, but so carefully. You swallow it down to survive. The one time I spoke was to scream for help.”

Singing, she said, “reminds me of what joy felt like.”

Yes, we all need to be reminded of what joy feels like.  As I finish this post, a Stellar’s Jay is picking up a peanut for lunch from my balcony.  We have rare sunshine in Seattle.

What brings you joy?

Related Posts and Links:

Honoring Crystal Judson Brame:  10 Years of Triumph and Tears, 4/26/13

Spotlight on Pierce County, WA

Ed Troyer’s Son Zachary Charged with Statutory Rape, 4/27/12

Isaiah M.K. Kalebu: DC Sniper Redo, 7/27/09

The Bravest Woman in Seattle by  Eli Sanders, The Stranger, 6/15/11 [Mr. Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for this article]

I Would Like You to Know My Name:  How My Life Changed After That Night in South Park by Jennifer Hopper, The Stranger, 8/10/11

Angel Band Project [working to break the silence on sexual assault and to heal survivors via music]

The Songs of a Survivor by Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times, 4/13/14

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