Sisters On The Runway Impacts Community On Domestic Violence Awareness
Some Penn State students work tirelessly to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence through outlets and clubs. Specifically, Sisters on the Runway at University Park recognizes that it is time to end the stigma surrounding discussions of toxic behavior.
Created in 2005, Sisters on the track got its start thanks to three high school students in Montclair, New Jersey. The national organization aims to raise awareness of domestic violence issues while remaining representative of all bodies, races, genders, religions, etc.
In 2014, Layla Taremi brought a Sisters on the Runway chapter to Penn State’s main campus. Since then, the student branch of Happy Valley has blossomed into a club of over 15 members.
Inviting members back to campus gave new meaning to Sisters on the Runway. President Sydney Herrmann said Sisters on the Runway “advocates for prevention and awareness of domestic violence in Penn State, but also in the surrounding community.”
The national chapter focuses primarily on domestic violence, but the Penn State branch believes it is important to include sexual assault in its focus. Most often, sexual assault is closely related to domestic violence for all identities.
“Our vision is to help survivors feel comfortable coming forward and creating a community that allows them to feel comfortable and supported enough to share their stories.” said Herrmann.
The club’s official vision is to “cultivate a community that is informed about the realities of domestic violence and ready to care for its victims”. For Herrmann, the club and his statements are faithful to the family aspect that the club maintains.
While the club’s name refers to the sisters and their hope of creating a safe environment, that doesn’t limit who can join the organization. The Penn State Chapter is a home of support and love for all individuals on campus.
“We welcome people of all identities – sexual identities, gender identities, races, ages, ethnicities… Everyone is welcome here and hopefully feels supported,” Herrmann said.
Sisters on the Runway is best known for its two biggest fundraisers: the “A Mile in Her Shoes” charity walk and the annual Sisters on the Runway fashion show. The club held its 19th annual charity walk on October 19.
The mile-long walk consists of all people holding signs with statistics on domestic violence, while many wear heels as they walk. Even though the club came together virtually last fall, members were able to track their mileage with their peers to continue the traditional walk.
All proceeds from these events and fundraisers leading up to the show go directly to CentreSafe, formerly known as the Center County Women’s Resource Center. The resource center provides emergency shelter, transitional and supported housing, as well as youth prevention education to the State College community.
The fashion show usually takes place in March or April, the latter being Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is organized and run by student volunteers, while the downtown community donates clothes.
After students return from winter break, Sisters on the Runway immediately contacts businesses and student designers to start preparing. Anyone, club member or not, can audition to be a fashion show model.
Besides their biggest fundraisers, club meetings themselves have insightful and inspiring value. Herrmann believes that people can easily be intimidated by the topics discussed in meetings.
“It can be overwhelming to deal with. The topics are intense, but we try to make them as friendly and optimistic as possible ”, said Herrmann.
Typically, meetings feature seminars that describe what domestic violence is, why people stay in abusive relationships, the facts about the abuse, types of abuse, etc.
“This club is very important, especially on a university campus. Being aware and working with the community to let people know that we are here is important, ”said Vice President Sophia Panzera. “There are always resources available.
The club invites speakers to educate its members on the realities of domestic violence. Penn State’s Center for Gender Equity and State College’s CentreSafe have representatives speaking at club meetings to provide resources and information that are not known to the general public.
Additionally, the Penn State Taekwondo Club recently partnered with Sisters on the Runway to perform demonstrations and teach self-defense classes. The club is continually looking for new ways to raise awareness of domestic violence.
“We welcome everyone. Even though the subject can be tough, it is really important that people become aware ”, said Herrmann. “There are so many people involved in these situations.
Herrmann says empathy is exactly what everyone needs, especially in our own backyard.
“Empathy helps someone else, even if they are not a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Being a more empathetic person is a huge message in our club. Be a good friend, a good member of the community and give back to the people around you, ”said Herrmann.
It is easy to get back to the track. You can follow Sisters on the Runway on Instagram or contact Org Central.
If you or someone you know needs domestic violence or sexual assault resources, visit Penn State Gender Equity Center, CentreSafe, or the National helpline on domestic violence.