Walk to remember

We have ‘a long way to go’ on domestic violence


Brian Hayes

Josh Mitchell, WSU student, plays cello next to a picture of Jana Mackey, the victim of domestic violence. Mitchell played along the Purple Mile on Saturday morning, at WSU.

Volunteers lined a mile-long stretch across Wichita State on Saturday, each holding a sign with the names and stories of domestic violence victims from the Wichita area.

The latest victim on people’s signs: WSU student Rowena Irani.  Wichita police arrested Irani’s ex-boyfriend in connection to her shooting death last week. Dane Thomas Owens is being held on a $500,000 bond on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery in Irani’s death.

“We’ve made progress in changing the way people think about domestic violence,” event organizer Terrance Williams said. “But we still have a long way to go.”

The walk was part of the Wichita and Sedgwick County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition’s and WSU School of Community Affairs’ second annual “Purple Mile” walk to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault during domestic violence awareness month.

The walk began at the Rhatigan Student Center with opening talks from elementary students from Coleman Middle School and WSU’s student athletes, and moved to the Plaza of Heroines for a moment of silence and then snaked through campus around the engineering buildings and along Perimeter Road.

Attendees walk the final stretch of the Purple Mile. The event  was to raise awareness about domestic violence and took place at WSU Saturday morning.
Brian Hayes
Attendees walk the final stretch of the Purple Mile. The event was to raise awareness about domestic violence and took place at WSU Saturday morning.

The idea for the walk came about when Shawna Harp-Mobley, a former criminal justice professor at WSU, started thinking of raising awareness about domestic violence within the Wichita community. Harp-Mobley passed away from cancer two months after last year’s walk.

“She was such a big part of our campus and the lead against domestic violence and sexual assault,” Kristin Brewer, a member of the Purple Mile board and Educational Specialist in the School of Community Affairs, said. “This was one of her biggest things and we decided to keep it going.”

Williams said about 50 people participated in last year’s walk, but this year that number more than doubled.

“This is a great success to Shawna,” Williams said. “I think she’s smiling down, laughing, because she had something so small of a vision and that vision is almost growing into something of a masterpiece, so to speak.”

This year, the walk was held in partnership with Jana’s Campaign, a domestic violence education and prevention group that was started in honor of Jana Mackey, a women’s advocate and domestic violence victim.

“I attended it (the first annual Purple Mile walk) last year,” Kari Rinker a member of The Purple Mile planning committee and board member of Jana’s Campaign said. “I walked and said, ‘O.K., next year I want to be involved.’ So, that’s when I had Jana’s campaign become a member of the coalition.”

Harp-Mobley’s mother, Norma Bratland, joined the others on the walk through campus her daughter helped start.

“This was her heart and soul,” Bratland said. “It’s great that they’ve honored her like this. It was an interest to her and she took good care of it.”