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Walk brings to light issues of domestic abuse

by Beacon Staff • November 17, 2011

strongElizabeth Gillis, Beacon Staff/strong

Candles in hand, a group of 65 Emerson students, marched around the perimeter of Boston Common Monday night in an effort to raise awareness of domestic abuse, pausing to read monologues and share testimonials of personal experiences.

The Shine Your Light walk served as a prelude to Kappa Gamma Chi’s annual spring Take Back the Night event and provided an atmosphere for young women affected by abuse to find comfort and take part in the cause.

Among those to speak was Kappa Gamma Chi co-chair Landry Allbright. Standing in front of the “Boston Founded AD 1630” wall on Charles Street, Allbright read the story of a young girl who was assaulted by a friend in college. After reading the monologue, Allbright ended in tears, thanking everyone for supporting the cause.

Wynn Harrison also shared her struggle with an emotionally abusive relationship she was in between high school and college. At the walk, Harrison said the relationship was part of her personal journey, eventually leading her to a supportive sorority and friends at Emerson.

“I have all my friends here –not just my sisters from Kappa—but my dance company is here and everyone who co-sponsored (the walk). The support from Emerson is just amazing,” the senior journalism major said.

For many who attended, the event provided a chance for the Emerson community to unite. Kappa Gamma Chi puts on the Take Back the Night event annually and, in part, according to Ngawag Chong, to connect the Greek life on campus.

“When I first pledged, I experienced Take Back the Night right away and it was so powerful,” said the senior marketing communication major and Kappa member. “It really made the sisters bond.”

Ben Lindsay, a sophomore journalism major who recently became a brother at Phi Alpha Tau, believed this sense of togetherness was what defined the night.

“I think that, being realistic, this isn’t really raising public awareness. This is a really good way of bringing us [the fraternities and sororities] together — especially the girls who have spoken — and building that community among us.”

[caption id=attachment_3814035 align=aligncenter width=356 caption=Kappa Gamma Chi, host of the Take Back the Night events, raised $3,000 for Casa Myrna, a women’s shelter, last year. Sarah Verrill/Beacon Staff]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Sarah_Landry.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3814035 title=Sarah_Landry src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Sarah_Landry.jpg alt= width=356 height=400 //a[/caption]

Take Back the Night events have occured at Emerson for sixteen years, but this was the first nighttime walk planned.

According to the organization’s website, the movement first began in 1975 in Philadelphia after a young woman was stabbed near her home walking alone at night. The next year a similar rally was held in Brussels at The International Tribunal on Crimes against Women.

Kappa President Kate Hefler said in an interview that a group of sisters first heard about the movement in the ‘70s and the candlelight vigil they held that first year has since evolved. The main cause has expanded to include not just violence against women, but also violence within families and LGBTQ relationships.

“It wasn’t enough to have just women take a stand,” said Hefler, a senior marketing communication major, speaking specifically of the Emerson initiative.

For many attending the walk, the all-inclusive aspect is what drew them to the cause. Freshman visual, media, arts major Kevin Barbagallo said that he and his ex-boyfriend had to worry about violence in his hometown of Los Angeles, Cali.

“I came because the issue of being safe at night is no longer just for women. It’s for the gay community,” Barbagallo said.

Including all genders in the fight against violence will be part of the Emerson campaign this year. According to Allbright, donations from Kappa have always gone gone to Casa Myrna, a women’s shelter that Allbright said the sorority was able to raise over $3,000 for last year. At the end of the march, Allbright said they are discussing splitting the funds with another organization that focuses on children, family, or LGBTQ rights.

“We’re not in a male or female society,” Harrison said in an interview. “We’re in a collective society of people that come from all different walks of life, all different sexual orientations.”

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strongCorrection: /strongAn earlier version of this article stated that Landry Allbright read a personal testimony of abuse. This is incorrect. At the walk, Allbright read the monologue of a young girl who was the victim of sexual assault, never identifying the monologue as her own.

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