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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

‘A person returns to their abusive relationship seven times on average’: The Petal Project aims to change this

Written By: Alexa Figueroa 🇸🇻

Gabrielle Hester and Faith Comising, creators of the Petal Project (Joshua Hu)

Gabrielle Hester and Faith Comising met on a bus ride back from a Hackcon conference in the summer of 2023 where they first connected over their shared experiences with being in harmful relationships. 

The time had come for the honors college students to come up with an idea for their final project. They realized they wanted to do something to help the healing process for victims and students of relationship abuse and give them a platform to share their stories of love and loss. 

Thus, The Petal Project was born.

“I remember on the ride back, when we were talking, the way that I felt was something that I had never felt before,” said Comising, a sophomore computer science major. “Just feeling so heard and feeling so seen by another person through those shared experiences is what made us want to do the same for others.”

The Petal Project, an initiative aimed at addressing relationship abuse at UMD’s campus,  distinguishes itself from other organizations that hold meetings and workshops for survivors of relationship abuse, said Hester, a sophomore immersive media design major.

 Their goal is to expand the group’s reach and have The Petal Project blossom on other campuses, said Comising. 

The Petal Project is a six-week initiative with each week's theme focusing on an aspect of the healing process for victims of relationship abuse, Comising said. They intend to hold two pop-up events per week with the goal of spreading positivity and dialogue on campus. 

“We want people to reflect on their relationships, and the state of their relationships, through making them realize that they are supported and loved by friends and by community, and that they always have people to lean on outside of their significant other,” Comising said. 

She describes feeling stuck in her previous relationship because she didn't have anyone else. Realizing she had other people on her side helped her get out of that situation. 

Hester came up with the name “Petal Project.” She took inspiration from their logo, a flower and a quote they refer to often. 

“One of the main posts that we highlighted is that a person returns to their abusive relationship seven times on average, which is a really big number,” Hester said. “Our logo has six flowers, because we want to reduce it by one. So, going from seven to six is our goal, and eventually, hopefully zero.”

The Petal Project’s logo represents love and celebration just like a flower does in our society, Comising said. 

“That's what we want our project to be, highlighting the love around us that exists and just highlighting the power of friendship and life,” she said.

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