KOKOMO, Ind. —Not on our campus. Not in our community. No more.
More than 250 IU Kokomo students, faculty, and staff bundled up against unseasonably cold temperatures in the 30s and 40s last week, for a one-mile walk to send the message that sexual assault and violence will not be tolerated in this community, and to show support for those who have survived, in the annual Not on Our Campus, Not in Our Community Angel Walk.
Teams of walkers raised about $14,000 for the Family Service Association of Howard County (FSA) domestic violence shelter, which gives survivors a safe home to heal and regain independence. IU Kokomo teams raised $1,000. In the 14 years the campus has hosted the event, it has raised about $200,000 for the shelter.
During the rally before the April 17 walk, Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, who volunteers as the FSA board president, thanked students for participating, and for advocating for the most vulnerable in the community.
“We have to recognize within ourselves how blessed we are to be safe every day,” she said. “For those of us who are blessed, we have to work to protect those who are not. We have to work to advocate for those who are not. Civic engagement is the message. You have to go to work to make a difference in their lives.
“You’re doing that tonight by walking down the street, saying, ‘Not in our community,’” she said. “We’re going to show our community we mean business. We’re here to advocate and help those who cannot help themselves.”
Identifying herself as a survivor of assault, freshman Bronlyn Bates said the walk lets other survivors know they are supported, and there are resources available to them.
In addition to walking, she visited resource tables created by students, to pick up information recognizing the signs of partner violence, how to respond after sexual assault, so she can help any survivors she meets.
“I want to be sure I’m there to help others,” she said. “This event lets people know you are not alone. You can feel very secluded.”
Junior Kaytlynn Lawson walked with fellow members of the Nurses Bible Fellowship, “to show that we as Christians support helping others, and we are against domestic violence,” she said.
As future nurses, she added, it is important for her group to be educated and know the signs of potential abuse, to be able to help. It is crucial that IU Kokomo play a role as well, she added.
“Our campus can be a place of support and help, and not being against anyone, but being for people, and making a difference,” she said.
Sophomore James Wilkison walked with his cross country teammates.
“We need to let the community know we care about this issue,” he said. “It’s an issue that impacts the community and we need to be supportive of those who can’t speak up for themselves.”
Heidi Wright, a survivor and sexual assault and domestic violence advocate, encouraged the crowd to speak up, to share their own stories, or to speak on behalf of survivors.
Referencing the #MeToo movement, she urged everyone to use their voices to vote for candidates who support survivors, and to say no more.
“This is the story of everyday men, women, and children, silenced for too long,” she said. “It’s time to stop giving shame and silence power. Our voices have power, and together we are mighty. This is no longer a conversation, this is a shift in our culture, and the work is only beginning."
Funds raised at the event are vitally important to the shelter, according to Tracy Martino, FSA executive director. In 2017, the program served 458 men, women, and children, at a cost of $868,000.
“We couldn’t do it without all of you,” she said. “Your volunteerism is inspiring, and has helped so many.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.