Fall is quickly making its presence known on campus. As October reaches its peak, the whimsical swirls of crimson, orange and gold littering the grounds are undoubtedly vibrant.
Another color floating through the community is purple.
October may be the starting line for autumn, but it’s also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The rich purple ribbon is the symbol of support. Across the nation there are marches, rallies and big events to support the cause, and there are even local agencies up in arms against domestic abuse.
Haven House, a local nonprofit, is thriving with energy and ambition for this cause. Providing both awareness programs in the local community and a shelter for victims of domestic violence, the staff at Haven House plays a large role in both prevention and healing. Despite their efforts, there are many who still remain unaware about how very serious this issue is, not only in the U.S., but even in Blount County, specifically.
Valerie Day, the recently appointed CEO of Haven House, warned that the issue was far more serious than most would think.
“We’re in a crisis in Blount County,” Day said. “Our rate of reported domestic violence is higher than the national average.”
On average, one out of every four families is affected by domestic violence nationwide, but in Tennessee, it’s one out of three.
It may be even more shocking that a majority of cases go unreported.
“Up to 10 instances of domestic violence can go on before it’s finally reported,” Day said.
One of the best ways to prevent domestic violence is simply by spreading the word through the community. Haven House is hoping to do this by hosting an awareness event this coming Saturday, Oct. 22.
The Art of Survival is a small festival where many can come together under one cause. The event will take place at Music Row, just a short drive up Highway 321, and will last from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will consist of artwork, kids’ activities, miniature ponies, cake walks and vendors. There will also be food and live bluegrass music (all pickers welcome).
Donations will be taken, and profits from food sales will go to Haven House. Events like these rely heavily on the generosity and time of others. There are only a handful of people who actually run the organization, and much of the outreach work is done by volunteers.
Sally Fager, the director of finance and volunteer coordinator for Haven House, gave much praise to those who donated their time to help out.
“We couldn’t function nearly as well as we do without volunteers,” Fager said. “They are pretty much the backbone of our prevention programs.”
Some of the best candidates to volunteer are college students, especially those at MC. Many are Bonner scholars, some are Bradfords and others just like to help out. Any help for setting up or cleaning after the Saturday event would be appreciated. Students can volunteer at the outreach office, located a mere five minutes from campus in downtown or spend time helping out at the shelter.
Even if a busy schedule interferes, spreading awareness can be as easy as clicking a button. By going to the Haven House fan page on Facebook and “liking” it, people can stay informed on domestic violence news.
On the subject of volunteers from Maryville College, Day had one more thing to add.
“As progressive as Maryville College is, they need the men of the campus to step up and say, ‘No more!’”
This closely aligns with last year’s formation of MC Man, an organization dedicated to inspiring the young men of MC to take a more active role in community relations.
“It’s one thing to have the women involved, but to have the men of the campus stand up is a challenge I want to issue to the campus,” Day said.
There are a lot of people affected by domestic violence, and awareness months present great opportunities. Erin Hampton, the former outreach coordinator who created several of Haven House’s community programs, feels very passionate about the topic and encourages everyone to participate.
“October is an awareness month, and the best way to spread that awareness is by engaging others to do their part,” Hampton said. “It gives a chance for everyone, the community as a whole, to come together and fight against this enormous problem.”