UVU hosts Audrey Prosper at annual domestic violence conference


“This girl is on fire! She’s walking on fire! This girl is on fire!” Audrey Prosper belted the iconic Alicia Keys anthem for over 200 people during her keynote address at the UVU Domestic Violence Conference on Tuesday. She sang with power and hope, sending a powerful message about her own survival. Prosper was a victim of a horrific attack from her now ex-husband.

“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me,” she quoted. Her powerful message focused on fire — internal fire and external fire. The internal fire, she said, is a force that pushes us to rise to the occasion despite the challenges around us, and Prosper believes it is the most powerful tool we have to overcome adversity.

She continued to share her story, telling how she met her husband and how their relationship progressed. Her story sounded ideal. “I never saw it coming,” she said. “My situation is not the typical situation where I was being abused every single day.”

“I thought he was there to protect me, but that wasn’t the reality of my situation. So that day, that very dark day, I found myself face down... with a butcher knife held to my throat as he attempted to rape me. He then bludgeoned me with a hammer four times in the head, stood back, lit the candle, put it on the dryer, looked back at me again, and made that final decision that he was going to do what he was going to do next. He then drenched me in gasoline, and I was in flames before the candle even hit me.”

Prosper was able to escape the garage and was thankfully helped by a neighbor to put out the flames. 

“80% of my body had been burned. And the worst part, aside from the excruciating pain and being away from my precious sons, was that the man I married and had two sons with was responsible for my injuries.” 

She continued to tell about her recovery, including the difficulties she faced with her physical recovery. Her mental and emotional recovery included her journey to accept what happened to her. Prosper emphasized that she realized she had a vital choice ahead of her — a choice about how she was going to respond to what happened to her. She ultimately decided that instead of running, she was going to face her past, her current situation, and her future with hope and forgiveness.

She thanked her amazing counselor for helping her to address the feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal she felt toward her ex-husband. Prosper came to the realization that to fully heal she needed to forgive herself and, even harder, she needed to forgive her ex-husband.

She concluded by encouraging the audience to take a stand about domestic violence, asserting that the community has the power to create positive change. “The inferno of domestic violence has left our community in a cloud of thick, black smoke, desperately gasping for air for far too long,” she said. “And while I don’t believe that we should fight fire with fire, make no mistake, we have to commit ourselves to fighting this fire. Because this is our future and our children’s futures. And they deserve to live in a world that fosters love and not violence.”

In over a dozen breakout sessions, attendees were able to learn about a variety of domestic violence-related topics. Some sessions covered the warning signs of dating and domestic violence while others covered the legal resources available to victims and their families. One particularly interesting session featured Rebecca McNairy, a UVU student pursuing her Master of Social Work degree. Her presentation discussed the need for a domestic violence specialty court that would focus on rehabilitation as much as punishment in Utah County, especially given the fact that one in three women in Utah will experience some form of domestic violence.

In addition to the educational sessions, the conference also hosted a variety of local and state organizations that provide support for domestic violence victims and their families. This year, a portion of The Clothesline Project — a powerful visual that showcases stories from the survivors of domestic violence on T-shirts — was also displayed for conference attendees.

“Utah is known for valuing the family,” said Toni Harris, assistant dean of UVU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “We must recognize and address the issue of domestic violence in order to make the changes needed to stem this growing attack in our homes. UVU is committed to providing ongoing educational and informational opportunities to our communities. “We hope that this conference will help to encourage conversations and increase awareness, which will help guide us toward real, lasting, positive change.”

We have to commit ourselves to fighting this fire.