AXO honors victims of domestic violence

Speakers discuss personal experiences, ways to help


Evelyn Zavala

Attendees honor victims of domestic violence with candles during a vigil at the Ford Chapel on Oct. 16.

Alpha Chi Omega’s Delta chapter brought back the annual Candlelight Vigil to honor survivors of domestic violence and raise awareness. The event was open to anyone who wanted to attend and required formal attire and masks.

The 15th annual vigil was hosted on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in Ford Chapel.

Vice President of Philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega Heather Amancio, ’23, explained the vigil’s importance to the sorority’s philanthropy and to the community.

“The Delta chapter has gathered here for the past 14 Octobers excluding the extraordinary circumstances last year.” Amancio said. “We acknowledge that domestic violence can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.”

Executive Director at Women’s Services, Inc. Bruce Harlan shared stories of people he has met in his 40 years of working with survivors of domestic violence.

“It’s indescribable the inhumanity that people who say they love you are doing to their loved ones and we hear these stories everyday,” Harlan said. “It’s occurring in Meadville, it’s occurring in Crawford County. When I look out in this audience and look into your eyes, I know there are stories there as well and hopefully these are resilient stories that are recovering and healing.”

Harlan explained how the cycle of abuse functions in domestically abusive relationships.

“There’s a tension building phase, then there is the incident, then the apology and things go back to normal,” Harlan said. “In the beginning, it’s an angry outburst and it’s verbal but as the years went on it became a slap, it became a push, it became a shove, it became a kick. Over the years the interval decreased to become more frequent with the violence escalating.”

After Harlan and a few women shared their stories, the audience participated in a moment of silence to honor the speakers and survivors among the audience.

Many of the students who attended felt that the event empowered the speakers as well as the audience in that they were able to build a safe space for everyone. After the event, everyone gathered into two rows and lit candles to put in white paper bags that had different messages on them.

Katie Nichols, ’22, shared her thoughts about how the event affected the speakers who came to share their experiences.

“I feel like it was very empowering for them to be able to share their stories,” Nichols said. “I think it helped build community and just increased my and everyone else’s awareness of the problem.”

Hallie Reiger, ’23, expressed how the event affected her and her takeaways from the event as it was her first time attending the vigil.

“It’s really emotional and motivational hearing my sisters speak about their experiences and I think it really touched all of us,” Reiger said. “I was very moved by the three girls that spoke. I think that there’s a lot of stigma around domestic violence awareness so I think they really brought to light how it doesn’t have to be a rape or a beating. It can be little things that build up over time.”

Amancio, as the main organizer of the event, outlined the purpose of the event as a platform for survivors to speak about their experiences. She hoped the speakers found solace and validation from their stories being heard and honored.

“The purpose of the event was to acknowledge Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to give anybody who wanted to share their story for whatever reason the platform to speak, heal and acknowledge how prominent domestic violence is,” Amancio said. “This is not an issue that only exists in the media. This is right here and right now.”

Attendees were urged to reach out to someone if they are currently going through a bad situation or need help healing. They were also encouraged to reach out to people they believe may need someone to talk to about an experience.

“I would encourage you all, at some point, to share your story with someone, someone you trust, someone who will hear your story and treat it with respect and the dignity that it deserves,” Harlan said. “If you suspect someone has been through something and you think you’re the person to talk to them, don’t ask what’s wrong with them, ask them what has happened to you.”