YWCA hosts reading, raises violence awareness

Sarah Miller

The YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment hosted a poetry reading to raise awareness on domestic violence Oct. 17 in the Union Underground.

The event, one of the first in a series over the week of Oct. 16 through 20, invited students write and perform poetry written about domestic abuse and gender-based violence. This week is nationally recognized as the Week Without Violence and has been celebrated annually in October for 22 years. October is also officially recognized as domestic violence awareness month.

This poetry reading focused on giving the Washburn community a safe space for survivors and witnesses to express their emotions and experiences regarding domestic violence. The poetry reading was led by Dennis Etzel, English lecturer.

“I’ve always been drawn to poetry that addresses social justice, social awareness, activism and inclusion,” Etzel said.

The event invited all poets and individuals passionate about the topic of domestic violence to engage in an open discussion about the problems in society that lead to gender violence. Etzel also coached those in attendance on how to find inspiration for a poem. Many of the attendees wrote poems on the spot to share with the group.

Emily Steimel, public education coordinator for the Center for Safety and Empowerment, wrote a poem about the purple ribbon pin that all YWCA workers wear. The purple ribbon pin is a symbol that is meant to raise awareness for domestic violence. 

She explained to the group what that symbolism meant to her through a poem that which drew upon her experiences aiding survivors of domestic violence.

Other subsequent events throughout the Week Without Violence included training to identify signs of domestic violence in the workplace Oct. 18, as well as a march and rally held Oct. 20.

“This week is held to raise awareness to the issue of gender-based violence and act as a catalyst to create change in the community,” said Michelle McCormick, program director for the YWCA Center of Safety and Empowerment.

The YWCA has collaborated with Washburn on several projects and events in the past. One of their most successful collaborative endeavors has been administering the Active Bystander training courses to Washburn students and faculty.

In the week leading up to A Week With Violence, the YWCA organized Walk A Mile In Her Shoes Oct. 7. Men were encouraged to show their support for those affected by domestic violence by literally walking a mile-long stretch in high-heeled shoes. The YWCA also collaborated with the Stand Together, a student-led group on campus focused in social justice, to create the Take Back the Night rally to protest sexual violence on college campuses.

The YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment has been active in the Topeka community for 40 years. For anyone who would like to know more about the organization or any upcoming events, check out their Facebook page under Center for Safety and Empowerment, or the official YWCA website.