MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC) wants to invite Morgantown area residents to participate in their annual Walk With Survivors.

The event will take place on Saturday, April 20, in downtown Morgantown, where members of the West Virginia RDVIC will be joined by survivors of domestic violence, local volunteers, and about 200 expected participants who will walk a mile as part of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Co-founder Virginia Hopkins encourages residents to participate in the $20 per person event that will include a limited edition t-shirt, a free program, and an invitation to a post-walk celebration with free food and drinks. Registration will begin at 9 a.m.

“Individuals can show up at the farmer’s market pavilion there on Spruce Street, they can register there, tickets are $20 per person,” said Hopkins on where the event will begin.

The path of the Walk With Survivors will start at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market before participants begin the mile long walk around downtown Morgantown. Based on past events, Hopkins expects to see several hundred people be a part of the walk that will include passing through High Street, where they’ll eventually work down to the Wharf District. This will be done with the help of the Morgantown Police Department, which will guide proceedings.

“The walk itself, which will be walking down through Morgantown, begins at 3:30 p.m.” said Hopkins on WAJR’s Talk of the Town. “The police have been so helpful to us, blocking the roadway or accompanying us, so that the walk is safe,” she said.

People in attendance will not only get a chance to express their support for domestic abuse survivors, but they will also have a chance to hear their stories. This will include testimonials from both longtime RDVIC volunteers and residents in Monongalia, Preston, and Taylor counties who survived instances of domestic violence, each with their own perspective on what was dealt with on the medical side, the legal side, and the long-term physical and mental effects of the experience itself. Local businesses will provide food and drinks to participants who stay for the post-walk event, and gear will be provided before the walk begins.

“They get a t-shirt, participation in the celebration, there’s food, beverages, as well as a program,” said Hopkins. “And we’ve had really good turnouts for this,” she said.

The West Virginia Rape and Domestic Violence Center has been active since 1973 and serves domestic violence victims in Monongalia, Preston, and Taylor Counties. With the help of social workers, local officials, and law enforcement from all three counties, they can provide services such as immediate aid and protection to victims, mental health services, and legal services so they can properly bring their attackers to justice. This is also separate from legal efforts that have led to laws being changed regarding domestic rape and partnerships on a local level to expand their services in North Central West Virginia. With all proceeds going towards those efforts, Hopkins encourages as many people to register as possible.

“It helps individuals understand that although they experienced something very terrible, that they have survived,” said Hopkins. “And that they (participants) are speaking out against sexual violence and want to help others,” she said.