MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- On Oct. 16 and 28, 2019, 10 Airmen reported to their work centers across base as they have many times before. Except this time, a black eye greeted their coworkers before they could.
The Airmen were volunteers in the Black Eye Campaign − an event hosted by McConnell’s Violence Prevention team as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness month. Volunteers who varied in rank, age and gender wore black eyes created with makeup as they went about their day. The campaign enabled volunteers to start conversations about domestic violence and inform others about the stigmas that prevents individuals from speaking on the issue.
Staff Sgt. Cheyenne Pierce, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 8 instructor and participant in the campaign, describes the experience as anything but ordinary.
“It was actually kind of a shock,” said Pierce. “I could feel eyes on me all day, even from those who didn't say anything. Putting myself in that situation was a totally different experience. It was surreal.”
The main goal of the campaign was to encourage individuals to speak up and ask questions. Those who expressed their concern to the volunteers received a card, thanking them for addressing the situation and providing further information on available resources for those effected by domestic violence.
One Airman who immediately noticed Pierce was Chief Master Sgt. Melissa Royster, 22nd Air Refueling Wing command chief.
“When she walked in and I saw the bruise I immediately keyed in on her and my heart hurt,” said Royster. “I thought, ‘Wow! I need to get to her, she needs help’.”
Following her discussion, Royster made it a point to pull Pierce aside and ask if she needed any help or simply someone to talk to.
“She informed me about the Black Eye Campaign, and provided me with the card,” said Royster. “I was relieved.”
Unfortunately, domestic violence is an issue that many may find difficult to address.
“Often times we find that people are uncomfortable getting involved due to personal barriers,” said Ceara Shaughnessy, 22nd Air Refueling Wing violence prevention integrator. “The more prepared individuals are to address these situations with resources and knowing how to have difficult conversations, the more likely someone is to intervene and get an individual the help they need.”
Spreading awareness of domestic violence is important for those who are afraid to ask for help. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.
“Raising awareness is a team effort,” said Royster. “I encourage Airmen not to be afraid to report any abuse that you witness. Expressing how far this issue reaches involves educating Airmen about the different types of domestic violence and encouraging our Airmen to speak out against acts of violence.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please reach out to the Family Advocacy Program, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and/or Military One Source.