On a sunny spring day, hundreds of Marines and their families gathered in Barstow, California to run for NO MORE domestic violence and sexual assault. There were NO MORE balloons, NO MORE T-shirts, live music, and a photo booth with props. (Little-known fact: Marines look really good decked out in blue boas.) It’s part of a new effort by the Barstow Marines to bring domestic violence and sexual assault to the forefront in a spirited, inclusive way, given the military’s push to address this urgent issue.
Many ran for a reason, like Sgt. Elton Rogers. “It was important for me. When I was younger, I watched my mother go through this. She was abused and beaten by a stepdad. I told myself that as I got older, I would do something. It meant something personally to me,” he says.
Christina Chavez coordinates sexual assault education on the Barstow base, and she spearheaded the run as a change of pace—literally. “The awareness training we do is in the classroom and facilitated using PowerPoint and discussion. This was different. A colleague with our Family Advocacy Program who was familiar with NO MORE had the idea, and we were actually able think outside the box using the NO MORE toolkit.” Chavez planned the run as an extension of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Signs were strung along the route with domestic violence and sexual assault statistics, and a local shelter hung artwork from survivors. There were families with strollers, kids jogging along with iPods, and buff Marines happy to get in a fun workout (and perhaps excited to pose with mustaches and tiaras).
“Sexual assault and domestic violence should be the last things service-people need to worry about,” says Chavez. “But we have a lot of people who sit silent because of the stigma that exists. We wanted to create a supportive environment and let everyone know: NO MORE turning the other way! If you need help, we’re here.”
Chavez plans to organize another 5k next year. “We got amazing feedback this year,” she says. “This was a totally new way to bring people together.”