Candlelight vigil raises awareness of domestic violence
Students cradling purple candles gathered together for a vigil to remember domestic violence survivors as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Thursday night.
Standing as a group on the steps of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, participants listened to others share stories of domestic violence and took part in a moment of silence.
The vigil was held as a part of the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance’s (VPVA) “Turn the Campus Purple” week, a year-long dating violence and healthy relationship awareness campaign, according to Rutgers’ End Sexual Violence website.
Megan O’Biso, a Rutgers Graduate School of Education student and graduate intern at VPVA, was instrumental in creating the events for “Turn the Campus Purple” week, along with two other interns at the office.
“Tonight’s vigil is just for people to come together if they know someone who has been, or if they have been (a victim), or if they just care about the issue to just come together and be part of the vigil,” O’Biso said.
Interns at VPVA have been tabling in all five of the campus centers and giving out purple bandanas and candles, as well as doing hair chalking and painting nails in support of the week, she said.
“We also did ‘Chalk the Block’ on Wednesday on Livingston campus … we basically had students and student organizations, they had a block of the sidewalk and they did a mural,” she said. “It was just literally turning the campus purple with chalk.”
Lisa Smith, the Coordinator for Domestic Violence Services at VPVA, said that vigils are important for raising awareness and giving space for people to share their stories.
“Vigils like this, I think, do give survivors a space and opportunity to be able to talk about their stories,” Smith said. “We heard several tonight that ranged from their own situation or a friend, or the house where they grew up or something, so this is something that we know students are experiencing, either directly or through somebody very close to them.”
She said vigils send a message to people that are walking by the event and ask what the event is about.
The events also raises awareness about the VPVA office so students realize there is a campus resource for those in need of assistance, she said.
Anne Liu, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said events such as the vigil give students more insight on what is going on in regards to domestic violence.
“Some people are affected by it and what not, I personally know a person who was involved in domestic violence before, and so I feel like it’s a really good event for students to be aware that there’s a lot more going on out there than what’s going on in their little world,” Liu said.
While Liu said that vigils are a step in the right direction, showing a video or a movie as part of awareness week would attract more students.
“I know that the ‘Hunting Grounds,’ when that was shown for sexual violence, I remember tons of students were in there, so that helped. It was more eye-opening than say, a couple of tabling events,” she said.
Students can attend any of VPVA’s programs, O’Biso said, and the office partners with organizations if they want someone to come and speak with staff or students. They also offer “Bystander Intervention Training."
If a student is concerned about someone they know in regards to domestic violence, they are encouraged spread information about VPVA programs, Smith said.
VPVA hosts other events throughout the year, at least once a month during the academic year, in order to raise awareness of domestic violence.
“We have the saying that there’s never just a month for us,” Smith said. “You know October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we want to raise awareness all year long.”