Alpha Chi Omega holds luminary ceremony to discuss domestic violence

“Know that you are not alone and you have the power to define yourself”

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(Gretchen Keller/Daily Collegian)

By Lara Klein, Collegian Staff

On Wednesday, sorority Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Massachusetts held their annual luminary ceremony to raise awareness for domestic violence, the sorority’s philanthropic focus.

It was an emotional night in the Campus Center Auditorium, which was adorned in purple, the color for domestic violence awareness. The sisters were wearing either black or white shirts. The girls wearing the white shirts represented the “1 in 4 women” that are affected by sexual assault.

Alyssa Calicchia, a senior political science and psychology double major who is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, emphasized her support for victims of domestic violence when sharing her own experiences.

“Know that you are not alone and you have the power to define yourself,” Calicchia said.

Alpha Chi Omega emphasized that they are “Real Strong Women” as said by member Mia Coffman, a senior hospitality and tourism management major who was one of seven people who spoke at the event. The seven people included five of Alpha Chi Omega’s own sisters plus Claudlyne Bernaus, the president of Sisters on the Runway. Sisters on the Runway also works to raise money as well as awareness on a large scale for such a prominent issue in today’s society. UMass alumnus Briana Vessey also spoke at the event, coming back to UMass to tell her own story.

One commonality between all of these speakers is that they believe they became stronger people because of their experiences. “I now know that I don’t have to be strong, and I don’t have to be perfect all the time” said Jacquie Petto, a senior nursing major, “because I know I have people who love me and support me.”

The night was building with emotion as each girl shared her experience.

“I wanted to help her, but the main character was me,” said Kene Chineye, a sophomore public health sciences major and a member of Alpha Chi Omega, as she recounted the events of her story with domestic violence.

Everyone was taken aback and flooded each speaker one after the other with applause as they stood up to the podium to speak in front of everyone in the room.

The event was held in light of current events, such as the #MeToo movement and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, who faced allegations of sexual assault from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

“My leather skirt sends a message to men,” Calicchia said. “But it should not have to be that way.”

“They took a piece of me I will never get back, and a piece they didn’t have permission to,” Chineye said.

The “Real Strong Women” of Alpha Chi Omega emphasized during the event that domestic violence is not a laughing matter and anyone regardless of race, religion, sex, gender or sexual orientation can fall victim to it if society does not start calling domestic violence what it is.

The group urged people to start respecting each other and to be conscious of one’s own actions and how they can affect others moving forward.

“I never thought it would be me until it was,” Alpha Chi Omega member and senior at UMass, Sara Murphy, said as she spoke.

 

Lara Klein can be reached at [email protected]