PORTSMOUTH—When she was seven years old, Taylor Corke experienced something that no child should ever have to experience.
A domestic violence event shattered her sense of security and changed the way she felt about her father forever.
“I wanted to forgive him but I just couldn’t,” Corke recalled as she shared the aftermath of her experience. “I was scared of him. Seeing someone you loved so much turning into a person you can’t even recognize hurt so much. After losing contact with my dad over the course of two years, I was faced with issues, the biggest one being [that] I was scared of people.”
So when Corke was chosen to represent Portsmouth High School as their 2022 Miss River Days candidate, she knew that she could use her community service platform to help others in her community affected by such violence.
“This platform is something that has affected my life personally,” Corke explained. “When I was [young] I witnessed domestic violence. And because of that I did not know how to cope with my feelings at first. With this platform, it finally gave me a way to speak about it, let alone create different ways for other people to cope as well that I’ve used myself.”
Corke’s platform, entitled “Coping for a Cause: Love Shouldn’t Hurt,” seeks to shed a light on the ways in which domestic violence can impact members of the community—of any age, race, or gender. And Corke wants those affected to know that they aren’t alone, and that there is help for them.
“I hope that people will honestly just [let themselves] feel for once. Whatever they feel, I want them to know that it is okay to experience these emotions, that it’s okay to go through these hard things in their life. But there is still light at the end of that tunnel that they might not see just yet,” Corke said.
A recent event hosted by Corke at Portsmouth High School welcomed community members for an informative afternoon filled with speakers and their stories of survival. Corke and her team worked hard to provide a comfortable, healing environment for attendees of her event.
Activity stations which encouraged healthy coping mechanisms for those impacted by domestic violence filled the space. From bracelet making to journaling their thoughts, those who came to the event were encouraged to be true to their voices and themselves as they reflected on their strength.
Survivors of domestic violence and a representative from the Southern Ohio Shelter shared their stories with the gathered crowd and provided resources to identify, cope with, and ultimately escape abuse. Corke also provided a station where she and some of her fellow Miss River Days candidates worked to fill bags of donated items for the Southern Ohio Shelter, and a $500 check was also presented to the organization.
Corke hopes that her message will reach the community in a way that will catalyze change for survivors of abuse.
“It has been absolutely heartwarming seeing all of the people in my community come out and support me. Even if I don’t get the crown, I know that I will continue to advocate for the awareness of domestic violence myself. I hope that I’ve opened eyes throughout my community, and that they’ll hopefully join along with me,” Corke said.
As she bravely shared her own story with the gathered crowd, Corke recalled that following her own brush with domestic violence, the hardest thing to overcome was learning to trust others again. For her, learning healthy ways to cope, as well as leaning on a patient and supportive network of loved ones, was instrumental in her healing.
She hopes that others striving to heal can follow her lead, and that the community can stand beside them as part of that network of support.
“I know that this battle is long from being over, but it’s something that I really want to put a dent in—even put a punch in if I can. I just know that with all of this and all the people that are here with me today, we can make a big change,” Corke said.
Follow Miss Portsmouth, Taylor Corke, as well as the other Miss River Days candidates online at friendsofportsmouth.com/river-days-festival. The Portsmouth River Days Festival will take place from September 2nd through September 4th, 2022.