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More Than 100 Gather On Murray State's Campus For Vigil On Violence Against Women

Liam Niemeyer

  More than 100 people gathered on Murray State University’s campus Thursday evening for a vigil opposing violence against women and memorializing women killed in Atlanta, Louisville, and western Kentucky. This vigil follows the death of a Murray State student found shot to death in late March.

Murray State students, staffand nearby residents walked across campus holding candles and some holding paper signs with the names and ages of women killed in recent mass shootings in Atlanta. Other names included two trans women recently killed; the name of a Murray woman who has been missing for more than three years, Samantha Sperry; and the name of the Murray State student recently killed, Sarah Townsend.


“Hearing later that night that Asian American, Asian Pacific Islander women were targeted specifically for their identity. And then hearing the news on Saturday morning that one of our own has been killed,” said Christine Linder, a Murray State professor and one of the vigil’s organizers, speaking to the crowd. “It’s too much.”


Those at the vigil made stops throughout campus, reading off the names and ages of those missing or killed. Murray State sophomore Lupita Salazar held up a sign with the name of Rayanna Pardo, 26, a trans woman from Los Angeles


Salazar said she remembers seeing Townsend on campus as a fellow pre-veterinary major.

“That was somebody of our own and it just hits so hard,” Salazar said. “Because of what happened with the shootings, what happened with her. I don’t feel safe on campus anymore. I got that sense of safety taken away.”


Credit Liam Niemeyer / WKMS
Salazar holding her paper sign at the vigil.

  There have been two shootings in or near Murray in the last 30 days where women were killed. A woman at a residence near Murray State’s campus died after being shot by her partner, who then killed himself. Sarah Townsend was found with multiple gunshot wounds in a roadside ditch in southern Calloway County. 


Salazar said as an Hispanic woman with family roots in Mexico, she’s tired of telling stories of racism she’s experienced and having those stories dismissed. She said people need to listen to women when they tell stories of their trauma.


The crowd eventually gathered in a field aside the residence halls on campus, where poetry was shared and some women shared their personal stories of trauma or their fear of violence. For another student Leah Barnes, 21, she came to the vigil in support of others raising their voices on the issue, which she considers to be crucially important.


“Making women feel like they have a voice and they matter, because a lot of times women are told to be quiet, or it’s not a big deal,” Barnes said. “Women are allowed to speak their truths.”


Among the crowd was Murray State President Bob Jackson, representatives of the domestic violence crisis center Merryman House, and representatives of the childen’s advocacy and sexual violence resource center Lotus. Resources were also made available for services on campus, including the Women’s Center and counseling services.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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