KTE works to break the silence of domestic violence

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Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. This startling fact is one of the reasons that SVSU’s chapter of Kappa Tau Epsilon (KTE) held a fundraising event in an effort to fight domestic violence Oct. 17. The event, which took place from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. in the Thompson Student Activity Room (TSAR), included a presentation from Crystal Sanders. Sanders is a supervisor at the Underground Railroad, a local shelter for victims. This shelter does not deal exclusively with domestic violence victims, however.

“Underground Railroad offers shelter and services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and we’ve started a human trafficking task force,” she said. “We also do education and outreach because obviously the big thing that we’d like to do is prevent and stop these things from happening.”

During the event, a silent auction took place with items donated by different businesses and organizations, such as TGI Fridays, Coco Locos, Family Christian and a faculty parking pass from the police station. All of the money raised went directly to the Avon Foundation for Women. Due to the generosity of the attendants and efforts of KTE, $942 was donated to the organization.

While raising money for the Avon Foundation for Women was a goal for this event, it was not the only factor that led to the event’s occurrence.

“It’s a really important issue that actually not a lot of people talk about,” said Laura Gray, KTE’s philanthropy chair. “Also it’s domestic violence awareness month.”

Gray, along with the other members of KTE, felt domestic violence is an issue that needs to be addressed. Wearing matching purple shirts, the members of KTE promoted “Break the Silence – Speak out against domestic violence.”

The concept of speaking out against this issue was also supported by Sanders. She felt it is important to hold events such as this one on college campuses.

“We know that these types of things do occur on college campuses more than we want to even talk about or admit,” she said. “And the more that we talk about it – the more that we break the silence – you know hopefully we will see this type of activity decline.”

This event not only spread awareness about domestic violence, but also provided attendants with a different perspective – from law enforcement officers. Two SVSU police officers, Christopher Rupp and Matt Meissner, discussed how far domestic violence awareness has come in the past few years. Unlike in the past, officers are now allowed to intervene in a situation where domestic violence is suspected. Also, the officers provided information about who to call if an individual or a loved one is in an abusive relationship. Lastly, the officers mentioned the self-defense class offered through the university.

Before the event took place, Gray had survivors as well as students reaching out to her and sharing their stories about domestic violence.

“Reading all the statistics that I’ve seen, it’s a lot bigger of an issue than I originally realized,” Gray said. “And it’s really scary to think that not a lot of people talk about it. It’s been pretty eye opening.”

Another surprising fact Gray has discovered through her involvement in this event hits close to home.

“Domestic violence is actually really prevalent specifically in Michigan,” she said. “I found out we’re one of the highest ranking in the nation for domestic violence cases. They’re not very often reported.”

Through events such as this, the public becomes more aware of the prevalence of domestic violence. The event informed its attendants of what domestic violence is and tactics to prevent it. Papers containing important information, such as the “Power and Control Wheel,” the “Equality Wheel” and SVSU’s pamphlet “Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, & Stalking on Campus” were placed on tables open for anyone to take. Providing information, conducting a silent auction, bringing in officers for a demonstration and utilizing a representative from the Underground Railroad, the event helped to break the silence about domestic violence.

When asked to give advice to a victim of domestic violence, Sanders gave a powerful message.
“Reach out, get help, and realize that they don’t deserve that,” she said. “Love should not hurt. As they come forward, seek help, and speak out it will give them the courage that they need to get away from that relationship. They don’t need to stay in a relationship like that.”

To learn more about the Underground Railroad, visit their website: http://www.undergroundrailroadinc.org/