Domestic abuse survivors share their story with students

The Daily News

Students light candles outside the David Owsley Museum of Art and the start of the Take Back the Night march. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK
Students light candles outside the David Owsley Museum of Art and the start of the Take Back the Night march. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK

A domestic violence survivor shared her story with about 285 walkers at the “Take Back the Night” candlelight vigil Thursday night.

Sororities Alpha Omicron Pi and Alpha Chi Omega partnered up to host the walk. They went from the David Owsley Art Museum, past Bracken Library, ending at the John R. Emens Auditorium.

This year they reached out to A Better Way shelter for women to invite a speaker.

“It’s ugly and horrific,” said Christine Elliott, a domestic violence survivor. “I still, standing in front of all of you here, can’t believe that it happened to me."

After being married to her ex-husband for 12 years and trying to make things work, she walked away after her then 13-year-old son confronted her about the relationship.

“My son said to me, ‘if you want to stay with him, that’s your choice,'” Elliott said. “’But I won’t talk to you for a very long time. He brings you down. He makes you want to kill yourself.’ Hearing that from my son was a big wake-up call.”

Allison Jacob, vice president of communication Alpha Omega Chi, said the walk was mainly intended for awareness.

“Not only are we teaming up with another sorority, but by doing this at night, when you see students on campus, there’s not a bunch of them together,” Jacob said. “We want to make students aware of what resources are available by having the different speakers tonight.”

Among those speakers were Ball State’s Victim Advocate Allison Wynbissinger, University Police Detective David Huff, and staff counselor Ashley Boester-Dean. All three made presentations at each of the stops along the walking path.

“I’m here to make sure that our students – freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior, super-senior, graduate – everyone knows that we have an Office of Victim Services on campus,” Wynbissinger said. “Those services are available to you and my job is to work with you if you have been dealing with stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship violence or intimate partner violence.”

Wynbissinger said her job is to navigate students through paperwork with law enforcement or the university, explore their options and know their rights. She said she is on call at all hours for students who are sexually assaulted and be there to support them through the more intrusive steps to collect evidence to build a legal case.

Huff said UPD works closely with the victim advocates to make sure that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault feel comfortable when reporting a crime.

“The majority of our victims are first year students here, so it makes it more difficult for them to move forward with these cases,” Huff said.

Elliott said a family physician recommended that she visit A Better Way after she began to encounter symptoms of depression.

She has gone back to school and is currently a 4.0 student at Ivy Tech and was recently accepted into the RN program. Elliott said the message she received through counseling and A Better Way needed to be shared.

“Maybe you don’t need this today,” Elliott said. “Maybe you don’t. Maybe you do. But the seed has been planted.”

Alpha Omicron Pi community chair Maddison Smith said the walk started small before reaching out into the community and other sorority.

“This event doesn’t go toward our philanthropy, which is arthritis,” Smith said. “However, we had a sister about four years ago who was really passionate about this cause. Our chapter was really supportive of her and said that we would love to do it and it’s become a tradition for us. Since Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy is domestic violence we reached out to them to participate so that we could get more people attending.”

The candlelight ceremony helped bring attention to the large group traveling through campus at night. But Smith said the candles have more purpose than exposure.

“The candles represent the hope for the survivors of domestic violence and assault as well as the hope for future,” Smith said. “If you’re not affected by it personally you probably know someone who has been.”

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