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4th annual 'End Relationship Violence' event honors Alyssiah Wiley

Published on April 04, 2024

4th annual 'End Relationship Violence' event honors Alyssiah Wiley

Students compete in a cornhole tournament.

State Rep. Tammy Nuccio speaks to attendees.

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its fourth annual End Relationship Violence awareness event on April 3 in memory of Alyssiah Wiley, an Eastern student who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend off campus in 2013. The event featured a cornhole tournament, speakers and awareness-raising activities.

The event opened with a welcome by LaMar Coleman, vice president for equity and diversity. Coleman acknowledged the tragedy of Wiley’s death while recognizing that, through this annual event, “the sweet part is that her memory is able to stay alive.” 

“You are all part of combating the problem,” said Coleman. “Let’s become aware; let’s get involved.” Eastern’s a cappella group, East Harmonies, followed Coleman’s remarks with a hope-inspiring performance of “Light in the Hallway” by Pentatonix. 

LaMar Coleman, vice president for equity and diversity

State Rep. Tammy Nuccio

State Rep. Tammy Nuccio, who recently hosted a forum on domestic violence awareness, shared an impactful story in her opening remarks about her own experiences with domestic violence. “I watched my mother stay in horrible relationships because she truly believed there was nowhere else for her to go,” she said. 

Jordan Wheeler (left) and Nick Kimball
Jordan Wheeler (left) and Nick Kimball

Nuccio urged attendees to “remind yourself that you are deserving of selfless, genuine love.” She also cautioned them that “isolation is the key to being able to abuse someone for a long period of time.”  

For Brenda Westberry, sociology professor and event organizer, Nuccio’s remarks were a highlight of the event. “Rep. Nuccio hit it out of the ballpark,” she said. 

Aside from the seven teams participating in the cornhole tournament, many students attended as spectators. Jordan Wheeler enjoyed seeing “the community coming together to stand against relationship violence.” Nick Kimball was there not only to have fun watching the tournament, but to “spread awareness of toxic relationships and domestic abuse.” 

Angeleena Smith, who competed in the tournament, enjoyed “being able to compete against the Willimantic Police Department.” Like Wheeler, Smith noticed that “all the people were there for the same reason.” 

The event also featured an educational component. Earl Middleton, school resource officer in Stafford Springs, CT, hosted a discussion called “Realities of Intimate Partner Violence.”   

When he first designed his lecture for high schoolers, Middleton noted that “it’s a dark topic, but I had to make it entertaining.” Middleton’s lecture incorporated humor, music and graphics while never straying from the gravity of the subject of intimate partner violence. 

Brenda Westberry, lecturer of sociology
Brenda Westberry, lecturer of sociology

Many instances of domestic violence start over “something stupid, like the remote, what you’re going to watch or what you’re going to eat,” said Middleton. “It doesn’t matter who you are, who you think you are or what plans you have,” said Middleton of people who are arrested for domestic violence. “You are going to court.” 

Several local organizations also set up resource tables at the event, many of which featured Eastern alumni. “Our resource folks have come back to give back,” said Westberry. Eastern alumna Paige Briggs ’22 and current student Rebecca LeBlanc represented United Services, a nonprofit behavioral health organization serving northeastern Connecticut.  

LeBlanc was inspired to volunteer at the event by “my own lived experience and wanting to help people who have gone through the same thing,” she said. United Services handed out stickers displaying the phone number of CT Safe Connect, Connecticut’s domestic violence hotline: (888) 774-2900. 

Westberry was proud to see Eastern students past and present spreading awareness of relationship violence by any means. “I’m always excited to see students take their learning from the classroom out into the community,” she said. 

Written by Noel Teter