KOKOMO, Ind. — More than 400 people took a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault in the community and $18,000 was raised to support the local women’s shelter at the annual walk and rally on the Indiana University Kokomo campus.
“Not On Our Campus, Not in Our Community/Angel Walk” is a community event for the Family Service Association of Howard County’s (FSA) shelter.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said the event is an opportunity to inform people about “a serious issue in our community.”
“We all have to pay attention to what is happening in our community, and not assume someone else will step up to make the difference,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “We have the power to say ‘Enough is enough.’ We have to take care of it.”
She noted that the shelter, formerly run by the YWCA, closed 10 years ago, and was able to re-open when it became part of the FSA.
The fund raising event is vitally important, said Pam Isaac, shelter coordinator, who noted that it ran short on funds last year.
“We could not do what we do without you,” she said. “Thank you for allowing us to do the work we do.”
As an employee of the state Department of Children’s Services, IU Kokomo alumnus Jeremy Gibson knows first-hand why the community needs a shelter.
“I work with children and families who are, unfortunately, exposed to this every day,” he said. “The FSA domestic violence shelter does wonders. It helps these families get what they need to get back on their feet, and provides a safe place for the children.”
Senior Micheale Gibson said the rally also is educational for students, to learn signs of an abusive relationship, and how to get help if they need it.
“They don’t realize they have a place to go,” she said. “They don’t understand that help is out there. It’s a way to educate them.”
The evening began with a rally in Alumni Hall, featuring a poignant reminder of the reason the shelter is needed. A domestic violence survivor, using the pseudonym Annie, shared her story.
“I thank God every day for the shelter,” she said. “Without it, I would probably be dead.”
She was sexually abused as a child, married young, and quickly gave birth to her first three children. Her husband controlled her every move, and did not even allow her a phone in the house for the first seven years of their marriage.
He began using methamphetamines, and threatened her if she did not join him.
“He told me he would kill me, and I believed him,” she said. Their arrest was her salvation, as she was able to enroll in rehab, get a protective order, and move into the shelter to start over.
“I was finally able to sleep, because I knew he couldn’t get me,” she said, adding that today she has a home and a secure job.
Temperatures in the mid-50s and cloudy skies could not dampen the spirits of the students, faculty, staff, and community members who walked the mile route together, many wearing turquoise event T-shirts. Some walked pushing strollers, with babies wrapped in blankets and hats to ward off the chill. Others carried banners with messages of support and encouragement.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 3033 were among the community volunteers who participated in the walk, carrying blue and white pinwheels to also honor Prevent Child Abuse month.
Girl Scout Gabrielle Long, who attends Central Middle School, said they wanted to walk to show their support for victims of domestic violence. Fellow Girl Scout Eva Gonzales hopes it teaches people where they can get assistance.
“It’s important to help, because people are getting hurt in our community,” she said.
IU Kokomo junior Joey Fellow, from Kokomo, volunteered to work at the walk with his cheerleading team. From a male perspective, he found the educational aspect of the event important.
“Our college years are when we form our character, and decide what kind of men we want to be,” he said. “It’s good to get the message that it’s not OK to act out in anger.”
Brandi Martin, a health sciences student from Peru, liked that it is an event that unites the campus and community.
“We’re taught here to think outside the box, and to take action,” she said. “People assume someone else will help, and this reminds us that we need to step up and help our community organizations.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.