On Saturday, July 10, more than 40 people came out to the seawall in Vineyard Haven to take a stand against domestic and sexual violence for the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ Connect to End Violence.
“I was a little nervous with the rain, but the Sharks baseball team came to show their support and help me,” Jennifer Neary, program director for Connect to End Violence, said.
Russ Curran, the MV Sharks general manager, initiated the surprise visit. “We figured we would come over and show our support,” Curran said. Collin Shapiro, Tommy Seidl, Jadyn Jackson, and their teammates were all involved in taking a stand on the seawall, each holding up a sign honoring women in their lives.
Jackson, who is from Georgia, held a sign that simply read, “Mom.” “I wanted to show how much women mean to us in our lives … show we stand by them,” he said.
Shapiro, who is from New Hampshire, has already participated in previous events in 2018 and 2019. He came to support his mom and sister, and most importantly, all women.
Seidl, who is from Wellesley, honored his mom and his sister, Shanon. “I’m here to show support to all women, especially the ones closest to my heart,” he said. “Shanon has been a role model for me growing up.”
Matthew Malowski, who lives in Oak Bluffs and is a counselor at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, believes in this cause, and has put a lot of work into it. “You need to get more men involved with ending gender based violence,” he said. Malowski’s aim is to inspire conversations around healthy relationships and “what it is to be a man,” he said. He encourages men to join MOVE (Men Opposing Violence Everywhere) on MV to facilitate meetings and discussions. “When you personalize, you start thinking about the women in your lives that experienced some kind of bad behaviour from men,” he said.
Sara Ahren was accompanied at the event by her husband, Justen. It was the first time the West Tisbury couple participated in taking a stand. Sara read about it, and felt she had to attend in honor of her sister Darin, who was killed by her husband. Her sign read: “Darin 1960-1988.” Justen came to support his wife, but also stand up against violence. “Violence toward women is not an acceptable behavior,” he said.
Aster Johnson, 13, wanted to participate in the stand: “My mom told me this was happening. I believe domestic violence has to stop. The statistics of how many women have been sexually abused haven’t changed for so long.” The young and well-aware teenager added, “Men have to hold other men accountable. If they ar[[e not standing up against other men, they are to be held accountable too.”
Neary summed it up: “Domestic and sexual violence toward women is not a women’s issue, but a human issue.”