KOKOMO, Ind. — You are not alone. We believe you. And we stand with you.
About 300 people — IU Kokomo students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members — sent that message to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, putting action to those words by participating in the annual Not on Our Campus, Not in Our Community Angel Walk.
Student organizations raised more than $2,000 for the Family Service Association’s (FSA) Domestic Violence Shelter by participating in the event, which is the not-for-profit organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. The total including community participants will be available later this week, but since 2004, it has raised more than $200,000 for the shelter.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said in addition to being a fundraiser, the walk is a learning opportunity, teaching students how to learn about social justice, and how to be involved citizens of their community.”
“This is an important project for students. They need to understand real social issues,” said Sciame-Giesecke, who also volunteers as president of the FSA Board of Directors. “They need to learn how to advocate for something, and to get out and walk and show their passion for it. You know your voice can create change, your action can create change.”
According to Tracy Martino, FSA executive director, it also raises awareness, so people know how to get help if they need it, or how to offer it. It’s likely everyone knows someone impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault.
“If you look around this room, one in four women and one in seven men will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime,” she said. “This event provides awareness to those in need that we are here to help you, we see you, we believe you, and you are not alone.”
Several IU Kokomo athletic teams participated in the walk, including the volleyball team. Erinn Adam said the team participates every year to show that as athletes they support their community.
“This issue becomes more and more relevant every year,” she said. “More people become victims, even though we may not see or hear about them. My hope is that an event like this would make them more comfortable speaking up and asking for help.”
Students Paxtyn Bailey and Cassidy Miles formed a team of two, inspired by friends working with local not-for-profit organizations for class projects. Miles hopes other people are inspired to help after seeing IU Kokomo’s example.
“If a small community like ours can do something like this, others can see it and do the same,” she said.
Kyle Burdette and Hunter Stephens walked because of a class, but Burdette noted he also has family members affected by domestic abuse, and he wanted to show his support. He also said college students need to be educated about sexual assault, to know about consent issues.
“We want everyone to be aware in this community,” he said. “College students can play a role in raising that awareness, and have a voice to reach a lot of people, old and young.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.