KOKOMO, Ind. — Tuesday was a perfect fall evening for a walk.
More than 150 people wearing matching purple T-shirts walked with a purpose on the Indiana University Kokomo campus, raising awareness of domestic violence, and approximately $15,000 for the Family Service Association (FSA) of Howard County’s domestic violence shelter.
Andréa Halpin, dean of students, said the campus seeks to instill values of ethical leadership and community involvement in its students, and is grateful to collaborate with partners like the FSA, who play an integral role in the community.
“My hope is that today serves as a catalyst for all our students to spread awareness to end domestic violence and sexual assault,” she said.
Sophomores Moriah Crawford and Kelsi Langley participated in the walk with their women’s basketball teammates and said it’s important to talk about issues related to domestic violence.
“We have to acknowledge that it happens, and bring awareness to it, and fight back,” said Crawford. “We want to end domestic violence, and if we don’t talk about it, there’s no way we can do that.”
This is the 19th year for the Angel Walk, which includes students, faculty, staff, and community members. This year, it also celebrates the FSA’s 55th anniversary, as well as national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore applauded all who participated and read a proclamation declaring October to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Kokomo, calling upon all to work together to raise awareness and, “hopefully, one day eliminate it.”
The event raises money for shelter operations. Angela Ciski, FSA director of community resources, said it has provided services for 20 years, and is now a certified rape crisis shelter.
Last year, the domestic violence program served 490 adults and children, providing approximately 4,000 shelter nights and nearly 12,000 meals.
Arianna Shanks-Hill shared her survival story, and her triumph in creating The Gabby Project, which provides education and resources for those at risk or who have survived domestic violence. Her goal is to protect the younger generation and prevent domestic violence.
Shanks-Hill, from Kokomo, noted that one in three women will be a victim of domestic violence.
After her abuse, she initially kept silent, then realized that left others vulnerable.
“I realized if he could do that to me, he could do that to someone else,” she said. “I remember thinking that somebody should say something, or he would continue abusing without any consequences. I came to the conclusion that nobody was going to take a stand unless I did it myself. I had to create the change I wanted to see. I took the worst that life gave me and turned it into life for others.”
She promotes her platform as a titleholder in the Miss Indiana Scholarship Program, and said advocacy gives her strength.
“I am not a victim of my life,” she said. “What I went through pulled a warrior out of me. Anger is the spark of change, but it is not sustainable. Love is. Love is what fuels us and drives us to be better humans.”
She encouraged everyone to love their community enough to hold people accountable for their behavior, to believe and support victims, and say enough is enough.
“Over time, you will create a community that is completely intolerant of abuse,” she said.