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Sisters On The Runway Impacts Community With Domestic Violence Awareness

Some Penn State students work tirelessly to raise awareness for sexual assault and domestic abuse through outlets and clubs. Specifically, Sisters on the Runway at University Park recognizes it’s time to end the stigma around discussing toxic behavior.

Created in 2005, Sisters on the Runway made its debut through three high school students in Montclair, New Jersey. The national organization aims to raise awareness for domestic violence issues while remaining representative of all bodies, races, genders, religions, and so on.

In 2014, Layla Taremi brought a Sisters on the Runway chapter to Penn State’s main campus. Since then, Happy Valley’s student-run branch has flourished into a club with over 15 members.

Inviting members back on campus has introduced a new meaning to Sisters on the Runway. President Sydney Herrmann says that Sisters on the Runway “advocates for prevention and awareness of domestic violence at Penn State, but also in the surrounding community.”

The national chapter focuses mostly on domestic violence, but Penn State’s branch feels it is important to include sexual assault within its purpose. More often than not, sexual assault is intertwined with intimate partner violence for all identities.

“Our vision is to help survivors feel comfortable coming forward, and creating a community that allows them to feel comfortable enough and supported to share their stories,” Herrmann said.

The official vision of the club is to “cultivate a community that is informed on the realities of domestic violence and is prepared to care for its victims.” For Herrmann, the club and its statements speak true to the family aspect the club maintains.

Although the name of the club references sisters and its hope to create a safe environment, that does not limit who can join the organization. Penn State’s chapter is a home for support and love for all individuals on campus.

“We welcome people of all identities — sexual identities, gender identities, races, ages, ethnicities…Everyone is welcome here and, hopefully, feels supported,” Herrmann said.

Sisters on the Runway is most known for its two biggest fundraisers: “A Mile in Her Shoes” charity walk and the annual Sisters on the Runway fashion show. The club held its 19th annual charity walk on October 19.

The mile walk consists of all individuals holding signs with domestic abuse statistics listed on them, while many wear heels as they march. Even though the club met virtually last fall, members were able to track their mileage with their peers to continue the traditional walk.

Courtesy of Sisters on the Runway

All proceeds from these events and fundraisers leading up to the show go directly to CentreSafe, formerly known as Centre County Women’s Resource Center. The resource center provides emergency shelter, transitional and supported housing, and youth prevention education to the State College community.

The fashion show is typically held in March or April, as the latter is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is organized and run by student volunteers, while the downtown community donates clothes.

Once students return from winter break, Sisters on the Runway immediately contacts businesses and student designers to start preparing. Anyone, club members or not, can audition to be a fashion show model.

Aside from their largest fundraisers, the club meetings themselves hold insightful and inspiring value. Herrmann believes that people can easily be intimidated by the topics covered throughout meetings.

“It can be heavy to handle. The topics are intense, but we try to make it as friendly and optimistic as possible,” Herrmann said.

Typically, the meetings feature seminars that describe what domestic abuse is, why people stay in abusive relationships, abuse facts, types of abuse, and more.

“This club is very important, especially on a college campus. To be aware and work with the community to inform people that we are here is important,” Vice President Sophia Panzera said. “There are always resources available.”

The club invites speakers to educate its members about the realities of domestic violence. Penn State’s Gender Equity Center and State College’s CentreSafe have representatives speak at club meetings to provide resources and information that’s not popularly known.

Additionally, Penn State’s Club Taekwondo has recently partnered with Sisters on the Runway to demonstrate and teach self-defense classes. The club is continuously finding new ways to spread awareness of domestic violence.

“We are welcoming of all people. Even though the subject matter can be harsh, it is really important for people to become aware,” Herrmann said. “There’s such a large number of people involved in these situations.”

Herrmann says that empathy is exactly what all people need, especially in our own backyard.

“Empathy enables you to help someone else, even if they are not a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Being a more empathetic person is a really big message in our club. Be a good friend, good community member, and give back to the people around you,” Herrmann said.

It is simple to join the runway. You can follow Sisters on the Runway on Instagram or reach out through Org Central.

If you or anyone you know is in need of domestic abuse or sexual assault resources, visit Penn State Gender Equity Center, CentreSafe, or the Nationwide Domestic Violence Hotline.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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