This post is a little out of the ordinary from what I typically share, but it’s something I believe to be important so bear with me. I joined a sorority when I was in college. While the Greek system has its stereotypes, and admittedly some groups live up to those, I didn’t party nonstop with my sisters. We had required study hours, community service projects, chapter guidelines, and other requirements. And well, yes, social time! I joined a sorority to make new female friends and be part of a wonderful sisterhood. Many of these women became dear friends and still are, as well as the new sisters I’ve met as an alumna. It was a great experience for me as I adjusted to being away from home and family. After graduation, I joined the local alumnae association, where I now sit on the executive board. Throughout my collegiate and now alumnae years, I am always in awe of the many amazingly smart, kind, savvy and motivated women who I am honored to call sisters.
One of the things that makes me most proud of being an Alpha Chi Omega is that our national philanthropy is raising awareness of and prevention of domestic violence. Over the years, my AXO sisters and I attended special programs about prevention and recognizing signs of domestic violence, hosted fundraisers for local domestic violence shelters and collected items for the shelter. We heard brave and devastating stories from survivors and victims’ families. All of these experiences have touched my heart. Domestic violence can affect anyone. Neither gender, race, education, religion or economic level matter in abuse. Physical abuse is not the only type of abuse. Mental and emotional abuse can have lasting effects on the victim, and is often harder to identify. It is stupidity to state that ‘a strong woman wouldn’t let herself be a victim’ because anyone can become a victim. It is often a topic that society doesn’t want to address. We see it too often in our media and even in our social circles when people either brush it off, make jokes or pretend it can’t/won’t happen to someone they know.
My alumnae chapter is hosting our annual domestic violence awareness event this week. We selected HAVEN as our local charity. HAVEN provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to nearly 20,000 people in metro Detroit each year. Our chapter had the privilege of touring the new shelter last year and we were so impressed with all that the organization provides, and incredibly moved by the facts and statistics that we learned.
We ALL can play a role in preventing domestic violence. Educate yourself on the facts, don’t blame a victim, stand up against racism, sexist and homophobic jokes and comments, treat all people with respect, hold your friends accountable when they disrespect women and girls. I sometimes fear that our society is forgetting the easy, basic manners of respect and kindness. It’s up to each of us to remind ourselves and others of these.
Here are some facts to know about domestic violence:*
Domestic violence occurs when one person uses controlling behaviors against another (an intimate partner) to maintain power and control. It can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and stalking.
More than one million people report a violent assault by a partner every year in the U.S.
One out of three Michigan families are impacted by domestic violence.
One out of four women will be abused by a current/former partner at one point in their lives.
Domestic violence can be attributed to 50% of the homeless cases among women and children.
HAVEN has some great tips on how you can help prevent domestic violence and abuse. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact HAVEN or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).
*Sources: U.S. Department of Justice; HAVEN; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services