The Alyssiah Wiley Program shatters silence to work toward ending domestic violence  

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With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Dodd Human Rights Impact hosted The Alyssiah Wiley Program this Wednesday at the Women’s Center. The event was part of the Democracy and Dialogues initiative, which aims to foster meaningful discussion and deliberation about issues impacting the community and world.  

The Alyssiah Wiley Program sheds light on intimate partner violence while honoring and sharing the story of Alyssiah Wiley. Wiley was a sociology student at Eastern Connecticut State University who was reported missing five days after she left campus with her ex-boyfriend. Weeks later, her body was found dismembered in a wooded area in Connecticut. Although the boyfriend was the only suspect, limited DNA evidence led to a lengthy trial process before his conviction.  

Groups of students and facilitators gathered over lunch to talk about their experiences as victims, witnesses or allies of those experiencing intimate partner violence. They also watched clips of “There’s No Winning in Murder,” a documentary about the state-wide search for Wiley and the tragic discoveries that followed.  

“We need to have more legal protection for victims,” said first-semester political science major Skyler Cassidy. “Our government thinks it’s an invasion of privacy to interfere with intimate partner relationships, but there should be a way to work around that.” 

“the more you dig, the more you have to pay. we need to have easily accessible data that is easily navigable.”

Corrinna Martin

Groups also discussed the culture of victim-blaming perpetuating cases of domestic violence and sexual harassment and assault.  

“Why aren’t we focusing on the issue?” asked Leina Rascόn, a third-semester political science major and discussion facilitator at the Women’s Center. “The issue is the perpetrator, not the victim. What resources can we give victims instead of blaming them?”  

“It is important for victims to realize that they’re not broken or damaged. Support, time and love are all really essential,” Rascόn continued, touching upon what steps can be taken to support victims rather than bring them down.  

Through her role at the Women’s Center, Rascόn facilitates In-Power, a gender-inclusive support group that helps victims and survivors of sexual assault, stalking or intimate partner violence on their healing journey. 

“Victims should be aware of the resources we have in the state and we should talk about them more,” said Cassidy, emphasizing the importance of group discussion in school settings.  

Brenda Westberry, a sociology professor at ECSU, spoke at the event, discussing the importance of never asking a victim why they didn’t leave their toxic relationship. For many, leaving a violent relationship is just as risky as staying in one.  

Students also had the opportunity to hear from Wiley’s mother, Corrinna Martin. After having lost Wiley, Martin was hit with devastation yet again in 2017, when her daughter Chaquinequea Brodie and granddaughter My’Jaeaha Richardson were also killed as a result of domestic violence. As a result, Martin made it her mission to fight systemic injustice and spread awareness and access to important resources.  

“we need to have more legal protection for victims. our government thinks it’s an invasion of privacy to interfere with intimate partner relationships, but there should be a way to work around that.”

Skyler Cassidy

“There were a lot of resources, but not a lot of resources afforded to us,” said Martin, explaining the disparities in accessibility for Black and Brown communities.  

In 2013, Martin started Mothers of Victim Equality (MOVE), a nonprofit organization striving to educate, combat bias and rectify governmental injustice. She is currently working towards the creation of a repeat violent offender registry in Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

“The more you dig, the more you have to pay,” Martin said in reference to the background checks currently available for people to conduct. “We need to have easily accessible data that is easily navigable.”  

Many perpetrators of domestic violence have violent backgrounds but are repeatedly classified as first-time offenders when the location of their conviction changes. This makes it difficult to keep track of violent histories, causing people to unknowingly enter relationships likely to become abusive. Hence, Martin advocates for the creation of a free and accessible registry across states, much like Montana’s current “Sexual or Violent Offender Registry.”  

To report instances of domestic violence or seek aid, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline or check out the National List of Domestic Violence Shelters. To participate in the UConn Women’s Center In-Power support group, contact in-power@uconn.edu.  

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