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Eastern community remembers Alyssiah Wiley

Published on October 13, 2021

Eastern community remembers Alyssiah Wiley

Annual event raises relationship violence awareness

Students participate in the event's basketball tournament.

Keynote speaker Shanay Fulton, Middletown's planning and zoning commissioner

A performance by the United Voices of Praise.

Lucky Larry's food truck offered event participants a unique dining experience in one of the country's only dine-in food trucks.

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its third annual Alyssiah Wiley End Relationship Violence Awareness Event on Oct. 13. The event, which honors Wiley, an Eastern student who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013, brings awareness to relationship, dating and intimate partner violence. Along with the 3-3 basketball tournament and informational tables, the event featured several speakers, including Devon Pinkus, the men’s engagement coordinator at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), and keynote speaker Shanay Fulton, the planning and zoning commissioner for Middletown, CT.

Social work lecturer and event organizer Brenda Westberry stands beside a portrait of Alyssiah Wiley. 

“We want to bring awareness and educate those within the campus community on the prevalence of intimate partner violence and the devastating consequences of relationship violence,” said Brenda Westberry, adjunct professor of sociology and organizer of the event. “Our responsibility as a community is to unite, further the awareness of relationship violence, and promote discussion among male and female students of this important issue. Violence touches every single one of us in some way and we need to advance our actions and dialogue on how we can come together and work to solve this public health crisis.”

A number of Eastern clubs and organizations also became involved in the event, including M.A.L.E.S. and F.E.M.A.L.E.S., Eastern’s cheer team and the LatinX Dance Team. John Watts, a criminal justice practitioner, was available to interact with students and answer any questions they had. Throughout the Student Center, tables were set up with information regarding domestic violence and resources available for students with questions and concerns.

With nine tables, all including different activities centered around interpersonal violence signs and awareness, students could fill out “passports” that were distributed to students attending the event. The first 100 students to complete their passports received a lunch ticket for a free meal from Lucky Larry’s food truck. Larry, head of the family-owned and operated truck, donated his time and resources to the cause to provide students with an alternative dining experience. Like Wiley, Larry is from the New Haven area, and wanted to participate in her event.

Anna Stevens ‘18 of the Case Management Program of the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies. 

Along with information and facts about intimate partner violence, in-house resources at Eastern were provided to students, including the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS). Outside organizations were also on hand, such as the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and their movement Team Up, which advocates for both men and women being involved in confronting domestic violence. “It’s not just a women’s issue,” said Westberry.

Eastern alumnus Anna Stevens ‘18 attended as a representative for the Case Management Program of the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies. While working toward her degree in criminology, Stevens took a number of classes with Professor Westberry. Westberry’s advocacy for Wiley, as well as the timing of Steven’s education, made her passionate about the issue.

“I started Eastern the year after Alyssiah Wiley passed away. From the beginning, I knew about her story.” Now a case manager, Stevens works with victims to help them receive community resources. Since graduating, she has regularly worked with Professor Westberry, speaking in her classes and giving back to the Eastern community.

Another table was occupied by Mothers of Victims Equality Inc., a group started by Wiley’s mother, Corrina Martin. Established in July of 2013, mere months after Wiley’s remains were found, Martin began her work as an advocate. She found that while her family struggled, no organizations reached out to them to try and help.

Corrina Martin, Alyssiah's mother, speaks with students about her nonprofit organization Mothers of Victims Equality. 

“Our family was completely unaware of the resources available,” said Martin. She continued by saying this was incredibly important for Black and Brown families in particular, as many of their cases get lost under the radar. “There needed to an organization within the Black and Brown community that could support in whatever capacity families needed.” 

In 2017, Martin found herself shifting her approach after another tragedy. Following the loss of her younger daughter and granddaughter to domestic violence, only four years after Wiley’s death, Martin realized it wasn’t just about having the knowledge, but knowing how to apply it properly. “You can’t control the actions of someone else; leaving even when it’s hard, it’s important for people to have a safe exit.” She has since provided resources to supplement a family’s needs, ranging from hygienic supplies to financial support, that would make leaving a dangerous situation an option.

Along with the Mothers of Victims Equality Inc., Martin has been promoting and campaigning for a policy that would allow for background checks across judicial systems and states. “I realized that there needed to be a free accessible database sharing information between judicial systems and states for violent offender registries both in Connecticut and federally.” Martin has found the honoring of her daughters and granddaughter through advocacy has been her way of pushing forward. “This is me working through it, this is my healing journey as well.”

Written by Molly Boucher