The Center for Prevention and Outreach’s annual “Take a Stand/Walk with Me” march for domestic violence awareness roused up the campus on Wednesday afternoon despite gloomy weather conditions and unresolvable scheduling conflicts.
“Seawolves break the silence! Help us end the violence,” determined marchers chanted as they made their rounds about campus. Waving signs and banners high in the air, students expressed support for domestic violence victims.
The Spirit of Stony Brook drumline had 11 of its members lead the march. Closely following the drumline were two CPO staff members who carried a banner that read “Take a Stand/Walk with Me” and a mass of student activists behind them.
The Stony Brook Men’s Rugby Club, the Phi Rho Epsilon Sisterhood, the SBU Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the university’s LGBTQ* Services, among many others, joined in to make a difference during the Domestic Violence Awareness month event.
The walk began with the start of Campus Lifetime and continued on for about an hour, with individuals weaving in and out as the hour progressed. The marchers began at the Student Activities Center plaza, walking across most of the academic mall and chanting alongside the university mascot, Wolfie. They then made their way back to the SAC auditorium for an information fair.
Tables of fliers and stress balls, business cards and informational packets lined the perimeter of the auditorium. Large quilts, which were made by survivors of domestic violence and allies of survivors, were pinned against the upper level of the auditorium.
“Something that I’ve found just in my work on campus is that this particular modality, the art therapy, really seems to resonate with our campus, and it’s, I think, developmentally where people are at,” said CPO counselor Christine Szaraz.
Szaraz, like many others, has a variety of personal connections with domestic violence.
“I coordinate pretty much the majority of our prevention, outreach and bystander intervention training around relationship violence,” she said. “Violence has been an ever-present thing in my own life, in my own family. As I got older I encountered more and more people — whether it was romantically, socially, academically … I don’t think there’s anybody I ever met in my entire life who hasn’t been impacted by some sort of violence in some way.”
Citing conflict resolution as a natural skill, Szaraz spoke of what led her to counseling and working with college students. She recognized that college students, unlike many younger individuals, are at a point where they have the opportunity to learn and grow—often with more maturity in hand and more of a distance from unhealthy friend/family dynamics.
However, Szaraz was not the only attendee with a personal stake. Members of the Phi Rho Epsilon Sisterhood expressed concern for domestic violence, mentioning personal loss and trauma they have experienced as a result of the growing issue.
“I’ve never done this walk [before]. What brought me here was [that] my grandmother actually died from domestic violence, so it’s a cause that’s really near and dear to my heart. It’s an opportunity for us to show Stony Brook that we support an end to domestic violence, and that we’re here, and that we will be the voices who struggle with this everyday, and we’ll work to end it,” said junior business major Shantia McCarthur.
Kam Narainsamy, another sorority sister and a senior health sciences major, has participated in the walk before.
“I grew up in a household where domestic violence was very prevalent,” Narainsamy said. “It was there all the time, and it was just one of the most dear things to me that I will always stand up for.”
The sisters agreed that the rain had little effect on anyone’s motivation or spirit.
“I think it’s amazing that it [was] raining and windy and people came out to show their support,” said Campus Complaint Advocate Samantha Winter. “I think that’s really important for anybody who has experience with domestic violence — to feel that support.”
The Men’s Rugby Club also attended the march.
“We are definitely going to be here every year because it’s such a worthwhile cause and we know that it’s the right thing to do,” said club president Rob Maloney, who attended the march last year as well.
Teammate Dylan Clay said the team is devoted to this cause and similar campus initiatives like Red Watch Band training.
“We care so much about this campus and school, and we want to show, as leaders, the impact that we can have,” he said.
The Take a Stand/Walk with Me march, which Szaraz said has been going on at Stony Brook for nearly a decade, has changed over the years.
“It used to be a bit smaller,” she said. “It would be the march and then that’s it, but we’ve expanded it to bring in community representatives, different campus organizations and voices — to have elements like what you’re seeing with the quilt squares and the banner signing.”
This year, representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services, the Title IX coordinator’s office, the Employee Assistance Program, Retreat and the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk set up tables at the information fair.
“It’s almost like an inspirational, spiritual kind of element where you get yourself geared up,” Szaraz said. “In terms of how that impacts the community, first of all it makes people stand up, pay attention, look at what’s going on [and] take it seriously. It gives [this mission] a level of credibility, I think. This is something the university is really invested in.”
The Center for Prevention and Outreach holds weekly Violence Intervention and Prevention meetings open to any who wish to attend and provide feedback. Meetings take place Fridays at 3:00 p.m. in Room 221 of the Student Union.