She was sad. She was confident. She was defiant.
Those were the emotions Kasey Stevenson, 19, felt as she walked down the streets of Oak Bluffs with a sign reading, “‘Boys will be boys’ promotes the rape culture and trivializes sexual assault!”
Two months before Kasey’s 13th birthday, she was sexually assaulted by a 70-year-old man. She walked alongside her parents, John and Deborah, 60-65 other sexual assault victims and their supporters in the sixth annual Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ (MVCS) program Connect to End Violence sexual assault awareness walk.
“This walk is a great way to bring people together,” Kasey said. “A lot of people have been through this, or have been affected in some way. It’s not just in movies, and it’s not just women.”
Beginning at Ocean Park, women, men, children, and dogs gathered for the walk with the goal of raising awareness, donning teal, the national sexual assault awareness color, and ribbons. “A lot of people see the Island as just a vacation place, and that it doesn’t happen here,” Isadora Brito, sexual assault lead court advocate for Connect to End Violence, said. “We are an Island, and this is a beautiful place, but we have to be aware that these things are happening in our community.”
Among the supporters were Ryan Schwab-Doyon and his son, George, 2. “I think it’s important that we [include] younger generations,” Ryan said. “He’s only 2, but it’s important to stand up for this cause and teach them what’s right.”
Flipping through the provided, hand-drawn signs at the registration booth, Judy Silvia said she was walking to support a relative. “I would love to see [the walk] bigger,” she said. “I think it’s growing, thank God.” She chose a sign that read, “I walk because I care.” Other signs seen at the walk: “You have the right to feel safe,” “You are not alone,” and “No more ‘she was asking for it.’”
In its sixth year, the walk generated a strong turnout and got the attention of many Islanders out and about on a welcomed sunny Saturday afternoon. Cars driving by honked and waved as the group walked from Ocean Park through the neighborhood, down Circuit Avenue, past the harbor, and back toward the park. Along the route were signs stapled to telephone poles with sexual assault facts, statistics, and myths.
“Drivers driving by, stop and take a moment to reflect on past hardships [we’ve] gone through, or just have sympathy for the ones who had their innocence snatched away,” Kasey wrote to The Times.
Connect to End Violence helped Kasey after her assault in 2011, and she’s walked annually with them ever since. “So many innocent people go through these hardships every day … these walks do make a difference.”
Since 1981, MVCS’ Connect to End Violence program has been providing free and confidential support to sexual assault and domestic violence victims, and their services include crisis intervention, counseling, court advocacy, police advocacy, medical accompaniment, and education and prevention programs.
To reach Connect to End Violence, call 774-549-9667; their domestic violence/sexual assault emergency hotline is 508-696-SAFE (7233).