HAZARD — The Rising Center hosted a “Come kiss Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault goodbye” event held at their center on Jan. 8. Miss Mammoth Cave Area Queen Haley Wheeler was the guest speaker of the event. Wheeler is running on the platform of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness for the Miss Kentucky Pageant this summer. Her aunt inspired the idea of Wheeler’s platform. Wheeler’s goal of the event was to build confidence in the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to give a voice for those who have been unheard.
Wheeler, a freshman at Western Kentucky University, is studying Communications Disorder at WKU. She hopes to become a speech pathologist in the future. She is also a cheerleader for WKU, and enjoys cheering their sports teams on. Her talent for the Miss Kentucky Pageant is playing the piano. Some of the her other hobbies include: shopping, singing in her church and makeup.
Her aunt inspired the platform of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness, because her aunt is a survivor of domestic violence that happened in her aunt’s marriage.
“The last incident with her ex husband nearly ended her life. It was a thing that traumatized our whole family, so seeing her go through that and have her happiness taken away from her with physical force hit me really hard,” said Wheeler.
It was that incident that made Wheeler pledge to fight against domestic violence and sexual assault.
“I said, ‘You know what, I don’t want anyone to go through that and I don’t want to see anyone go through that’,” vowed Wheeler, after she witnessed what her aunt went through.
One of her ideas on how to build confidence in survivors came to her one day while she was sitting at her makeup desk applying lipstick.
“This is my brainchild… I said, ‘You know, lipstick makes me feel so much more powerful as a woman and I know so many woman affected by domestic violence, and they have their confidence taken away from them’,” said Wheeler.
She explained that speaking to the survivors has gave her more confidence in her platform. She hopes by raising awareness to her platform that she is giving that support back to survivors and giving them a voice.
“These women need confidence, they need support,” said Wheeler.
On a table in front of her sat a collection of 67 different types of lipstick that had been donated to her from around the state.
“This thing I have been doing, it is just a kind of way to give these women that sort of same feeling I get when I put my lipstick on, the confidence in themselves that they deserve. I believe it is going to work today,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler pampered the survivors during the event. She showed them her way of putting lipstick on, in hopes that they would gain confidence in themselves. She wanted them to feel confident in their own skin, with and without makeup. She also gave them tips on how to be successful in job interviews.
“In order to fully pamper them, I’m going to give them that whole confidence experience. I’m going to teach them how to confidently nail a job interview,” said Wheeler.
At the end of the event, Wheeler presented the crowd of survivors a blank canvas. Wheeler asked each of the survivors in attendance to kiss the canvas with their lipstick on, a symbolic gesture of leaving their past behind them. The canvas with each survivor’s kiss imprint will be hung in The Rising Center as a piece of art.
“This is going to be a mini mural. I call it a metaphorical representation of kissing that chapter of their life that held them back, leaving it behind and kissing it goodbye. It actually says a kiss goodbye on it. Every time someone walks in, it’s going to that sort of representation of ‘Oh wow, that chapter of my life is behind me and I am stronger and better now’,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler will be participating in Miss Kentucky this summer at UK in Lexington.
For those wishing to donate lipstick to Wheeler, they can send packages of lipstick to 261 Katie Drive, Clay City, Kentucky, 40312.
For more information on The Rising Center, please call 606-435-0849.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.