Reach for the Stars is holding a domestic violence awareness walk at the Under Armour Performance Center on Friday, Oct. 29.
Organized by co-founders Ashley Rivera and Lauren Williams—two survivors of domestic violence—it’s an effort to support unity among residents, business owners, and law enforcement officials while normalizing conversations surrounding experiences with domestic violence.
“Storytelling and sharing your experiences helps others recognize what’s happening,” Rivera says.
A Latina from Jersey City, Rivera moved to Baltimore 10 years ago and been a resource for others through her work in domestic violence research and on the advisory committee for the Community Family Life Services Speakers Bureau where she shares her story and facilitates support groups.
In her work, she noticed a commonality among many people—as young as 14 or as old as 65—who had a story about domestic violence but had not shared it because they did not know who to talk to about it.
Domestic violence is an umbrella term that can start with how people speak to each other or behaviors in the household or at work, she says. If people feel they have a safe space to share these stories, others can start recognizing these red flags, she adds.
Friday’s event will include a walk, music from Brandon Woody and UPENDO, educational resources, raffle prizes and stories from survivors. Participants are encouraged to wear purple—the official color for domestic violence awareness.
The walk will take place from 5-8 p.m. at the Under Armour Performance Center, 10 Light St., Unit 1, as a symbolic gesture of bringing light to dark places. Visit reachforthestarsbaltimore.org for updates.
One in three women and one in four men have experienced domestic violence by their intimate partner, Rivera and Williams note on their website. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, Baltimore City has reported more than 500 violent domestic crimes or domestic aggravated assaults, they add.
“If that’s the case, we’ve all been impacted or know someone very close to us that has,” Rivera says.
She was quick to mention, however, that it’s not a problem specific to Baltimore. It happens everywhere, and preventing it involves individuals understanding harmful behaviors early on and stopping them before they reach a level of domestic violence.
Healing together as a community will help reduce violence, she says.
Part of that healing includes signing a Pledge for Peace to no longer be a bystander and hold each other accountable. One of these ways includes challenging attitudes that condone disrespectful behavior or degrading language.
The full pledge can be found online at change.org. It already had 315 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
Friday’s event will be the first walk in Baltimore for the observance of domestic violence. Rivera is hopeful that the city can be a leader for other major cities around the world.
“I really wanted to change that reputation for the city,” which often has negative associations, she says. “We’re known for so much and we have so much potential.”