Runners at Voices of Courage 5K speak out against domestic violence

Participants at the Voices of Courage 5K run prepare for the race. Participant have sheets pinned to their shirts with quotes and statistics about domestic violence. (Whitney Tibbits)
Participants at the Voices of Courage 5K run prepare for the race. Participant have sheets pinned to their shirts with quotes and statistics about domestic violence. (Whitney Tibbits)

BYU Women’s Services held its 6th annual Voices of Courage 5K on Saturday morning. The Women’s Services staff raised money to help victims of domestic violence and educated students about the issue.

Students who ran the 5K were given runner’s bibs with quotes and statistics about domestic violence. Heather Anderson, a freshman studying human development, read the message on her bib.

“In American society, crimes against women have risen four times faster than the general crime rate and three out of four women will suffer a violent crime,” Anderson read.

Anderson and her roommate Cassie Howe signed up for the race after hearing about it from a friend involved in Women’s Services. Anderson decided that the 5K was for a good cause.

Anderson said her introduction to family life course taught her the importance of addressing issues like domestic violence because they destroy the family unit. She said she was inspired by BYU graduates who visited her class to share organizations they had created to combat issues like domestic violence.

“I want to be like others and do something for a cause,” Anderson said.

Taylor Mathis, a sophomore studying biology, said that addressing domestic violence can solve other social problems in the world.

“There’s tons of problems (with) families now, and if we resolve things within (families), then the external problems (may) be resolved too,” Mathis said.

Howe’s bib had a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Howe said domestic violence happens to those who people least suspect. “It’s more widespread than we think,” Howe said.

Anderson said that the race was challenging because she had not been training for a race. She compared her race to the journey of a domestic violence victim.

“It’s really challenging, but (they can) get through it with help,” Anderson said. The Voices of Courage campaign aims to bring men and women together as allies in creating a culture of respect and non-violence.

Six hundred ninety students registered and nearly 500 students attended Saturday’s 5K run. “We were thrilled to have such a wonderful turnout, which meant that many people were getting the information themselves and we hope they turn around and spread the word against violence in our communities and culture,” said Pam Smith, Women’s Services office manager.

The overall purpose of the 5K was to spread awareness. Community sponsors supported the cause by donating prizes for the runners. “Essentially they all stood up with us against violence of any kind in our society,” Smith said. She said that next year’s 5K may include a canned food donation from runners to benefit a shelter.

The Voices of Courage campaign goals include making behavioral choices to help reduce violence in society. Some of these goals are to intervene in potentially abusive situations, support victims of violence and use words and actions to show intolerance for disrespect and violence.

The “Get Involved” link on the campaign website, provides further opportunities for students to get involved in domestic violence prevention. Simply wearing a Voices of Courage T-shirt around campus, attending awareness events throughout the school year and volunteering with Voices of Courage events are a few ways to get involved.

Men are encouraged to get involved since the solution to domestic violence involves them just as much as the women. Beyond BYU’s Voices of Courage events on campus, the Voices of Courage website urges men and women to volunteer at local domestic violence shelters.

Making meals, donating non-perishable food, cleaning the facilities and donating gift cards, clothing or hygiene items are all ways to help local shelters. The closest women’s shelters include Provo and Orem’s Centers for Women and Children in Crisis.

For more information, visit the Women’s Services office in 3326 Wilkinson Center or see the Voices of Courage website above.

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