It is no secret that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. NFL teams don pink cleats and gloves, numerous breast cancer walks are held, and ads pleading for women to receive annual mammograms fill the media. Yet breast cancer is not the sole problem highlighted during the month. Another extremely prevalent issue in society may not get the same amount of attention, but definitely deserves to: domestic violence.
Domestic violence is defined as behaviors used by one individual in a relationship in order to control the other, usually in the home setting. These controlling behaviors can be physical or psychological in nature, and both men and women can be victims of domestic violence. An astounding 57 percent of American teens know peers who have been physically, sexually, or verbally abused.
Darien is not immune to this issue. In fact, the amount of calls to the Darien Police regarding domestic violence incidents has grown from 84 in 2008 to 124 over the last year. Realizing the scale of the issue, senior Alex Pear decided something needed to be done in order to bring awareness to Darien High School. Pear is the founder of the Art for Action Club at DHS and the Art for Action Network, and launched the initial campaign. From the beginning, the goal was to “spread awareness of domestic violence at the high school level, promote taking a stand against domestic violence, and support the promotional efforts of Domestic Violence Awareness groups during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Pear said.
Pear later gained support from the Teen PeaceWorks Club, and decided that in order to make the campaign as successful as possible, she would need to reach a wide audience. In order to get that audience, she turned to the Blue Wave Football Team.
“Coordinating charitable causes with athletics is very high-impact and beneficial for the cause, the club that champions it, the sports team, and the values of the school,” Pear said.
Pear reached out to Coach Rob Trifone and the captains, asking them if they would be willing to contribute to the cause. Coach Trifone and the captains immediately agreed. “It was such an easy way to spread the word about a great cause,” said senior captain Brett O’Donnell.
On October 14, the day before the Blue Wave’s game against Trumbull and the DHS Homecoming Dance, every single football player, from freshmen to seniors, had a purple strip drawn under one eye by members of Art for Action and Teen PeaceWorks. Homecoming was chosen as the time for the campaign because most domestic violence incidents occur in the home. The strip under the eye was purple because purple is the official color of the Domestic Violence Awareness campaign. The football team was chosen because, according to Pear, “Our football players are role models and leaders in our community. Football players epitomize strong male voices against domestic violence, and their message resonates with students.”
In addition to the purple strips, posters of the captains wearing the strips were placed around the school, and a large poster reading “we will take a stand against domestic violence” was hung behind the student section at the game. But the campaign did not stop in Darien.
After Pear had talked to Coach Trifone, she contacted Coach Lou Marinelli and the New Canaan Teen PeaceWorks to pitch her idea. For New Canaan’s Homecoming, a week after Darien’s, the football players also wore purple strips under their eyes. But Pear would still like to see the program grow. “We hope to make the event FCIAC-wide next year,” says Pear. “Our goal is to get all 19 teams to participate by next year, thereby reaching approximately 31,000 students.”