A mix-up with the East Potomac Park security did not dampen the spirits of the participants of the Women of Freedom Foundation 5K Walk Sunday to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. AU’s Women’s Initiative has a department devoted to domestic violence awareness but did not participate in the walk because the group is focused on the upcoming AIDS Walk Washington, said Vanessa Mueller, director of Women’s Initiative.
The race was set to draw at least 170 people based on its registered racers. The security deterred some people from participating, according to event coordinators.
This was the fifth year the Women of Freedom Foundation held the walk. Usually, it is held on a Saturday, but Nadine Matthis, an event volunteer, said a mix-up within the park system gave another group their time spot, and they had to share the park with another race. As a result, security would not let some runners into the park. Runners who drove to the event had to park their cars and walk another 10 to 15 minutes to get to the site.
“I think what happened was there were two races, and we were not assigned park police,” said Rayshel Murphy, founder of the Women of Freedom Foundation. “They catered to the other race.”
There was a breakdown between park coordinators and park police, she said.
For some participants, the security did not seem too bad, and they made the best of being parked farther away.
“You just park over there and walk over,” said Judy Bland, one of the participants. “It was a good warm-up. We didn’t mind it.”
Murphy remained upbeat and said the turnout was good despite the difficulties. The important thing to her was that the runners spread the message of domestic violence, she said.
“I hope they were able to see the need to raise awareness of domestic violence,” Murphy said. “That’s the main objective, that they see a need, especially with the epidemic in D.C.”
Murphy considers domestic violence an epidemic because of the high statistics and rates, especially in the D.C. area, she said. Nationwide, a woman is battered every 15 seconds by her significant other, and four women die every day as a result of battery, according to the Women of Freedom Foundation’s Web site. Almost one-third of American women report being abused physically or sexually by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to the Web site.
“Domestic and relationship violence can occur at any age, at any level of intimacy and to any type of couple,” Mueller said in an e-mail. “According to the CDC, domestic violence affects more than 32 million Americans, or more than 10 percent of the U.S. population and is only reported about a third of the time.”
Because abuse does not have to occur in a marriage and can start during any intimate relationship, Murphy talked about signs women of every age should know to stop abuse before it goes too far. When a guy is very possessive of his girlfriend or wife, calls more than three times a day to know her whereabouts and isolates her from her friends and family, he shows signs of abuse, she said.
The internal gut feeling women have of unease in a relationship can be fairly accurate, she added.
“Sometimes we ignore that uneasy feeling in our gut, but there’s really something going on,” Murphy said.
Participants in the walk wanted to take a stand for the women represented in those statistics.
“It’s a very important cause and a great day for the race,” said Ofelia Perotti, one of the runners. “We want people to know there are others who back them up if they need help.”
Women’s Initiative is planning other domestic violence awareness events, including Purple Thursday and Take Back the Night, according to Mueller. The group also successfully collected supplies for the D.C. Rape Crisis Center during CIVITAS week and will continue this collection next weekend at the Bar Mitzvah Party, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Student Association.