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Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Saturday events set to focus on domestic violence awareness

Love Shouldn't Hurt

On Saturday, October 14, men and women from WVU Tech and the Beckley area will meet in front Carter Hall to kick off a day of activities designed to raise awareness about the issues of domestic violence in the Raleigh County area.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, so to gather the community around the issue, WVU Tech’s Counseling Service is teaming up with the Women’s Resource Center for “Love Shouldn’t Hurt.” It’s a series of activities that will get people talking about relationship violence and domestic abuse.

WVU Tech Behavioral Health Therapist Mary Hoke said that the event aims to shed light on a problem that claims, on average, three lives per day in the United States.

"This is something we’re doing to recognize an important issue and to get people thinking about this proactively. If we can teach our students and our community to recognize warning signs and that domestic violence isn’t just physical abuse, that’s it’s about control and power, then we might be able to give them the tools to stay safe and to keep these situations from escalating into violence,” she said.

The day’s events will start off in front of Carter Hall (see campus map) at 11 a.m. with a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. Both men and women participating in the walk can don high heels and attempt to walk a mile-long route that begins and ends at Carter.

Kylie Lang, a sport management major from Crescent, Iowa, organized the event. She’s president of the WVU Tech Sports Studies Club and jumped at the chance to get the organization involved in the day’s activities.

"You can bring your own, and we're borrowing heels from the Women's Resource Center and One Voice for the walk. The heels are optional, of course, and we tried to keep the walk as flat as possible, but this is Beckley," she joked.

Lang said that the organization will award the top three walkers with the best times. There are some more humorous awards, too. 

"We have a 'newborn giraffe' award for the wobbliest walker and an award for the sassiest walker. It's going to be a lot of fun," she said.

The walk is free and open to the public, but Lang is encouraging participants to bring a donation of hygiene products (things like shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes and feminine hygiene products) to the walk as an entry fee. The items will be donated to the Women’s Resource Center.

"It's about raising awareness," she said. "It’s about helping women in need. We're doing something that's fun and different and we're collecting donations for women who are trying to get out of bad relationships or that are staying at the shelter because they don't have anywhere else to go and they're trying to stay safe."

In honor of those we’ve lost – and to protect those we haven’t

After the walk, participants will meet in Carter Hall to hear from representatives from the Women’s Resource Center, who will share information about their work and recognize this year’s recipients of the organization’s Incite Hope Award. WVU Tech will be receiving an award alongside Jessica Massey of the Raleigh County Community Action Association.

Attendees will hear songs from local musician Greg Lilly and enjoy refreshments provided by the Beckley Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital.

The group will then gather on the steps of Carter Hall for a candlelight vigil, where they will light a candle and read the name of every person in Raleigh County that has lost their life to domestic violence between October 1, 2016 and the end of last month. 

That’s a heartbreaking 21 candles. 

"That's 21 people over the age of 18 who lost their lives to domestic violence in the last year in Raleigh County alone. And most people think of women when they think of domestic violence. These are men, too. These are people from all backgrounds. It touches everyone," said Hoke.

Hoke said that the group will also light a 22nd candle for Belinda Cox, who passed away last week from injuries sustained in a domestic assault.

For Hoke, honoring those who lost everything to domestic violence and sharing resources for those who might face it in the years to come is a chance to change a life. It’s a step towards the goal of making the vigil itself obsolete.

“The hope is that through these events, we can give people information so that next year we're not reading their name. We're not lighting a candle for them,” she said.

There’s help, no matter who you are

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there's help. 

"If you're a student, come here and I can help direct you. If it's a violent situation, skip me and go to the police. The Beckley police have an officer who is dedicated to domestic violence cases,” said Hoke.

Hoke said that, on average, it takes someone seven attempts before they successfully leave an abusive relationship.

“If it's a situation you need help getting out of, there are places like the Women's Resource Center that can help. They have a 24-hour emergency line. We have one, too," she said.

Awareness is about prevention, and Hoke said that prevention can be taken on by the aggressor in domestic violence situations. For men and women who need help with abusive tendencies, there are resources like Batterers Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPP). Hoke said that general counseling for anger management and other emotional regulation issues can also help to curb abusive actions.

To find out more, visit the WVU Tech Counseling Center website, the Women’s Resource Center website or the Beckley Police Department’s domestic violence page.