5th annual Purple Mile sheds light on domestic violence


Audrey Korte

A group of about ten people marched in remembrance of Reyona Caldwell, who died from domestic violence on June 2, 2017. “She was a very sweet person. She was just always loving. She was a good person. She had a good heart.”

The 5th annual Purple Mile walk took place Saturday at Wichita State as part of Domestic Violence Awareness month. The event raises awareness and honors victims of domestic violence. 

It was sponsored by the WSU School of Criminal Justice. Speakers included Shannon Wilson, chief of General Criminal Trial Division at the District Attorney’s office, and Chief Gordon Ramsay from the Wichita Police Department. 

Ramsay said about one-in-four calls that local officers get is related to domestic violence. To deal with these calls and keep victims from being further harmed or killed, officers now do a lethality assessment.

“So on every (domestic violence) call, they have to go through a checklist, and then if they meet that criteria, they immediately call an advocate,” said a volunteer who asked not to be named. “These victims of domestic violence, they’re far more engaged, right? So now they have an advocate to talk to and help them through the process.”

The volunteer said the goal of the event is to raise awareness of domestic violence and the number of resources available to those in Wichita who may be suffering in an abusive relationship. 

“We want this crime to stop. We do lose people to homicide through domestic violence,” said the volunteer. “We don’t want our kids to even know what domestic violence is someday.”

A group of about ten people marched in remembrance of Reyona Caldwell, who was murdered on June 2, 2017.

“The first year she passed away, I saw it in the newspaper. We didn’t know about it,” said Reyona’s sister Nakia. 

In the year after her sister’s murder, Caldwell said she struggled to find information on what had happened. 

“I was determined to find some information. So I Googled it, and it just so happens the very first thing that popped up was a girl holding a poster for her,” Caldwell said. 

The girl carried a sign in honor of Reyona at a previous Purple Mile walk. That prompted Nakia to get ahold of the Wichita/Sedgwick County Domestic Violence Coalition, Nakia said, to find out her sister’s story. 

Now that Nakia knows what happened to her sister, she is speaking out against domestic violence. But the most important thing is to remember her sister’s life, Nakia said, not her death. 

“She was the kindest, most non-judgmental people person with the craziest laugh that you could ever hear. She was a great person,” Nakia said.

Dane Wright was sentenced to life in prison for Reyona Caldwell’s murder after he pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, and three counts of child endangerment. 

According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. 

It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. 

Terrance Williams, retired from the U.S. Air Force’s Security Forces, was the event’s emcee. 

“This is what I love doing,” Williams said. “Not only is it bringing awareness, but it’s also a community event. I think it’s very imperative and very important that when you live in a community, you try to be supportive of the community. So that’s why I’m here.”

Williams said he was pleased with the number of children who were present at the event, but he recognizes as a parent how tough it is to have these conversations with kids. 

“I think it’s very important that we come out of our shells and have these sensitive conversations,” he said. “It’s saddening. I mean, you see the pictures of the mothers, of grandmothers, of their kids that are actually being killed.”

It’s not just the government’s job to try to step in and help, Williams said. 

“I think it’s all of our jobs to step in and help. If we can just keep getting that point across, maybe we can save a life. If we can save just one life, then we are doing our job,” he said.