Last weekend my best friend, my boyfriend and I participated in the Hot Chocolate Run in my hometown of Northampton, MA. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraising event where people run a 5k, or in my case walk 2 miles, to raise money and awareness for Safe Passage. Safe Passage provides, “shelter, peer-support, counseling, education, advocacy, legal support and community education,” to women and children who are domestic violence survivors.
It was an amazing sight to see 5,500 participating, and more community members observing, in an event to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Many walkers/runners wore stickers with the names of loved ones they had lost due to domestic violence. Domestic violence is still silenced in many homes and communities. It is powerful to see women, men, children and families give voice to those who may not always have the power to speak up. It is important for organizations to raise money in order to continue to provide services, but it is also important to raise awareness and bring visibility to the issue as well. In a city with a population of less than 30,000 people, such a large turnout sends a message of support to those affected by violence in our community.
There is always more work to be done. Institutional barriers around gender, race and class are deeply intertwined with gender violence. However, the fight is vital and we must continue to bring awareness to gender violence in our communities. Gender violence is not a private issue, as demonstrated by the stickers worn by the walkers and runners, its affects are widely felt. Even though the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence ended on December 10th, I will continue to make my voice heard on this issue throughout the year. I encourage everyone to do the same.