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Eastern hosts 3rd relationship violence awareness event in memory of Alyssiah Wiley

Published on October 06, 2022

Eastern hosts 3rd relationship violence awareness event in memory of Alyssiah Wiley

Eastern students attend Alyssiah Wiley event.

3-on-3 basketball tournament.

Mayor of Bloomfield, Danielle Wong, the event's keynote speaker.

Eastern student Meganlyn Delaney danced to "Easy on Me" by Adele, highlighting the discomfort felt by many in abusive relationships.

Eastern students attend Alyssiah Wiley event.

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its 3rd annual Alyssiah Wiley End Relationship Violence Awareness Event on Oct. 4. The event was organized by Sociology Professor Brenda Westberry and featured a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, guest speakers, awards and more.

The event was held in memory of Alyssiah Wiley, a 20-year-old Eastern student who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2013. The story of Wiley’s tragic death calls awareness to the greater issue of relationship violence. The goal of this annual event is to promote healthy relationships to students in hopes of preventing more episodes of dating violence on and off Eastern’s campus.

In her opening remarks, Dean Emily Todd of the School of Arts and Sciences emphasized the seriousness of this issue. “It is such an important event to promote awareness of healthy relationships,” she said. “You should all know that the influence of this event is spreading.”

Westberry said that she had clear goals in combining awareness of relationship violence with the fun of a basketball tournament. “I wanted to combine the athletics portion with the awareness portion,” she said. “Kids 18-24 need experiential learning. If learning is not experiential, it won’t be profitable later in life.”

The tournament was organized with the help of assistant cross country/track and field coach Dawn Hubbell. She stated the importance of including basketball in the event. “It was a big part of Alyssiah’s life, and we wanted to carry on her legacy.” A new member of Eastern’s staff, Hubbell was impressed by the collaborative effort of students and faculty. “It’s really awesome that people are coming together as a community to raise awareness for such an important cause.”

The keynote speaker at the event was Bloomfield Mayor Danielle Wong. She started by recalling Wiley’s untimely and unpredictable death, when she never returned from a weekend away with her ex-boyfriend. “Those closest to her didn’t know much about her intimate partner or how volatile their relationship could be,” she said. This led to the general point of her speech: “Domestic violence is everyone’s problem, which means it’s everyone’s solution.”

Wong referenced many publicized instances of relationship abuse, including Courtney Clenney, a 26-year-old model who was accused of killing her boyfriend after attacking him throughout their relationship. She also mentioned the case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, an infamous example of a toxic relationship. Recognizing that she is not trained to identify patterns of domestic violence, she urged students to speak up when they witness these patterns: “We can break that pattern by calling it out.”

Alyssiah Wiley's mother, Corrinna Martin, addressed participants of the event.

Hartford Courant Reporter Deidre E. Montague, who covers the community and race/social justice issues.

Ken Mysogland, bureau chief of external affairs at DCF, accepts an award on behalf of DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes.

Judicial District State Attorney Anne Mahoney.

Mayor of Bloomfield, Danielle Wong, the event's keynote speaker.

Sociology Professor and organizer of the event, Brenda Westberry.

Three attendees were awarded the Alyssiah Wiley Making a Difference Awards. Judicial District State Attorney Anne Mahoney received the Making a Difference in the Judicial Community award. Named Prosecutor of the Year by the Connecticut Criminal Justice Educational and Charitable Association in 2006, Mahoney has dedicated her life to judicial justice. She also orchestrated the Community Engagement Board of Windham, a group of professional community members that help build and strengthen the community through discussion on areas within the community that are impacted by illegal activity.  

Commissioner for the Department of Child and Family Services (DCF) Vannessa Dorantes received the Making a Difference in the Connecticut Community award. In January 2019, Dorantes accepted Governor Ned Lamont’s nomination and was confirmed as the state of Connecticut’s first African American DCF Commissioner where she oversees the Department’s 3,200 staff members. Additionally, Dorantes co-chairs the state’s Alcohol & Drug Policy Council and the Health & Safety subcommittee for the Governor's Council on Women & Girls.  

Hartford Courant Reporter Deidre E. Montague, who covers the community and race/social justice issues, received Making a Difference in the Community as an Alumni of Eastern Connecticut State University award. Montague earned her degree in English from Eastern in 2014 and has gone on to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) from Simmons University in 2016, and an associate degree in Communications with a concentration in journalism from Manchester Community College in 2022. She has worked for several news agencies including Better Manchester magazine, the Connecticut Broadcasting Network and the Hartford Courant.  

Later, Wiley’s mother, Corrinna Martin, addressed the participants in the tournament. Having lost not only Alyssiah, but another daughter and a granddaughter, Martin extended her gratitude for all in attendance: “This is my family, and you are all part of my family.” She emphasized that all the contributions by students were having an impact. “You also have an amazing opportunity to keep doing it, day after day after day,” she encouraged the students. She addressed the love that those in attendance shared with friends, family, and romantic partners and wished for them to “continue that love.”

The event also included a presentation by the school’s Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence and Success (MALES) student organization. Stafford police officer Earl Middleton pointed out that many domestic violence incidents start as arguments over “something stupid” and escalate, urging young men to keep their composure in these conflicts to avoid risking future-threatening consequences.

Written by Noel Teter