SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Cars were backed up on Salina Street Friday as hundreds of walkers filled the streets to spread awareness of sexual assault and violence. This year’s walk marks the 25th anniversary of the White Ribbon Walk led by the Vera House. Project Coordinator George Kilpatrick said this is an ongoing community commitment.
“We believe that by coming together and saying no excuse for abuse that we can make a difference and have a long lasting impact to finally say that we’ve ended domestic violence and sexual assault,” Kilpatrick said.
This is Vera House’s big picture goal. But the walk’s goal is simply to spread awareness, by sporting white, holding signs and tying ribbons. By placing white ribbons all around the area people are keeping their voices heard, on an issue that is often kept silent.
Vera House’s annual report shows that 17,019 domestic violence calls were answered in 2017 by the Syracuse Police Department and County Sheriff’s office combined, as well as 586 sexual abuse calls. Only 3,364 of those domestic violence offenders were arrested in 2017 with 163 sexual abuse offenders arrested. That’s about 20% and 30% respectively.
“There’s a small percentage of men that commit most of the violence, particularly against other men and against other women, so if we can get men to start speaking up we can end this violence,” Kilpatrick said.
For Myles Davis-Swain, this is his second time attending the white ribbon walk. It’s an event that hits close to home for him as a witness to domestic abuse.
“It was hard to see like, I used to live with my aunt and it was her boyfriend a lot. Just sitting there and not doing anything about it made me feel bad,” Davis-Swain said.
Miles came with a group of 90 others with the program “Building Men” where they learn healthy masculinity.
“What you do today will affect you tomorrow. So it’s important to treat our women with respect and dignity,” Davis-Swain said.
These young men hope that being leaders in sexual assault awareness can spark a change in the community.