As a horde of fraternity brothers in high heels paraded down Washington Street for their “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser, locals and Binghamton University students alike gathered to watch in support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The event aimed to educate the community on domestic violence and support organizations focused on domestic violence prevention. While it was organized by the CVAC, many groups, such as Real Education About College Health (REACH) and Planned Parenthood of Binghamton, had tables set up with handouts and representatives ready to educate anyone who wanted to gain a better understanding of their mission and services.
Regardless of where attendees came from, the positive purple energy enveloped Washington Street. As purple serves as the color for domestic violence awareness, attendees donned everything from purple T-shirts to purple wigs. Haley Murphy, ‘14, campus sexual assault liaison for the CVAC, explained the color’s significance.
“Purple is also a color for peace, so that’s kind of where we get that purple connection,” Murphy said. “We want events like this to get people started on having conversations about what healthy relationships look like and if your relationship isn’t healthy, how do you feel safe and supportive enough to come forward and ask for help.”
As attendees roamed around and enjoyed the blaring music, speakers assembled to make their voices heard. Musical performances, speeches and poetry were delivered by current students and locals.
Kelti McEvoy, a sophomore majoring in theatre, grabbed the mic for a poem detailing a personal experience with domestic abuse.
“I decided to write about my own experience and something my first boyfriend did to me,” McEvoy said. “I wanted to make it really from the heart and make it real. The more you tell your story, the more likely someone else is going to take inspiration from that and tell their story so they can get the help they need.”
The event’s attendance by students and residents is a positive development for organizers, who have often struggled with raising awareness. Cheryl Sullivan, chief assistant county attorney at the Broome County Attorney’s Office, said the community has trouble accepting that this problem even exists.
“We have a very difficult time getting people to want to talk about the issue, especially when it comes to children,” Sullivan said. “We very often have adults in our community that just say, ‘I can’t wrap my brain around that.’ They feel like it doesn’t happen in our community. I think it’s fear of having it impact them or their family, and not accepting that it happens doesn’t make anyone safer.”
Murphy said early education is a good place to start when tackling the issue.
“I think it should start at a really young age so by the time that people are ready to have sex and have those relationships, they’re aware of the different nuisances and they understand themselves enough to make decisions about consent,” Murphy said. “That’s a hard ask for our society obviously because it has to be starting at elementary school, but I think that’s a really good way to start it.”
While “Paint the Town Purple” served as a kickoff for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there is much more to come. Oct. 14 to Oct. 18 will serve as the “Week Without Violence” to continue to raise awareness, with many Downtown bars and restaurants serving purple drinks and a portion of the proceeds being donated to the CVAC.