The idea behind Walk of Hope is that there are too many people from the community whose lives are being affected by domestic violence, which is why it is important to bring awareness to it. The Walk of Hope started five years ago and is held every year.
It started with Monica Bryant, the coordinator for the Family Violence Prevention Group, contacting Karla Wilson, an associate professor at CF, saying she had a vision of doing this walk. “[Bryant] said we have walks for breast cancer, we have walks for all kinds of other issues, but not for domestic violence,” Wilson said.
Five years before the walk started, one of the communications faculty at CF, Debra Allen Vazquez, was murdered in a domestic violence incident. For the last five years, the walk has started at the Ocala Police Department, where Vazquez was murdered, and ended at CF.
In honor of professor Vazquez, CF planted a tree on campus which they walked by and tied a purple ribbon on. Wilson described Vazquez as creative, energetic, and one of the strongest women she knew.
“Whenever you hear domestic violence, you don’t think about it touching someone that has strength and power, but unfortunately, domestic violence affects all kinds of people” Wilson said. “Sadly most of it affects people who are strong because they think they can get through the domestic violence; that they are strong enough.”
With Professor Lee Rosen, Wilson developed a group within their department, the Anti-Violence Association (AVA). When students at CF started to learn about AVA they also wanted to get involved, which is how they started SAVA (Student Anti-Violence Advocate) which has been active for about four years.
Wanting to share his sister Debra’s story who was abused for several years, Larry Williams got up and talked about the struggles his sister faced with domestic violence and how she finally got out of an abusive relationship.
“He would beat her and treat her worse than how you would treat your dog. Even though we begged her to come home, she said she loves him,” Williams said.
“Sometimes she would come back for a day and sometimes for a week, but she would always go back to him. It is just a repetitive nature of someone who’s been abused, and a lot of times they don’t think there is an escape to get away from it,” Williams said.
One of the officers in SAVA demonstrated, along with her cousin who is a master in aikido and been practicing it for 20 years, how to escape a dangerous situation without using violence. Aikido is a way to be less violent against violence and it is the least violent of the other martial arts.
Story by: Erica Hultgren