Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Sorority helps fight domestic violence

Monday, October 1, 2012

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Alpha Chi Omega, a sorority at Southeast Missouri State University, will organize events and raise funds to combat domestic violence.

Southeast senior Abby Henschel, a member of Alpha Chi Omega, said stopping domestic violence is the sorority's philanthropy, and it holds an event in the spring.

"All the fraternities participate in our Frisbee sling, which is like ultimate Frisbee where they compete with each other," Henschel said. "We have T-shirts made, and it's a way for the community to come and participate as well."

Henschel said members of Alpha Chi have an item drive at least two times a semester to support the Safe House for Women. The Safe House for Women's office is located at N. Spring Street in Cape Girardeau.

"We bring at least two to three items to our chapter," Henschel said. "All the donations are usually hygiene products, paper products and laundry detergent."

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Alpha Chi organizes an event called "Brewing Awareness," where it runs a coffee house, and a couple of bands play throughout the night.

"It's like a relaxing night for the outside community to help give money," Henschel said. "This year, it will probably be at Cup 'N' Cork."

Last year Alpha Chi sold wristbands that read, "Don't Touch This." The wristbands were $1 each, and all the proceeds went to the Safe House for Women.

"We will probably do that again this year because it was such a good turnout," Henschel said.

Henschel said she interned at the Safe House for Women last spring. She wanted to take the internship because of Alpha Chi's connection with the shelter, but she never imagined what the women at the shelter had gone through.

"It just opened my eyes up to what some people had to witness in their lives," Henschel said. "I realized how strong these women are, and when they come to the shelter they literally have nothing. They just grow within that house each day."

The Safe House for Women was founded in 1991 and is a not-for-profit domestic violence shelter. Kyle Riddle, an educator at the Safe House, said it began as a domestic violence shelter for women and their children to give them a safe place to stay. The Safe House expanded to include its outreach office and counseling services.

"We provide court advocacies [for] people who need legal help, education and counseling," Riddle said. "We also have our thrift store, which consists of clothing donations and some appliances, where the women at the Safe House can shop at their convenience."

According to Riddle, domestic violence begins at a young age. Abusers can become emotionally or verbally abusive as early as fifth and sixth grade.

Physical abuse is the most obvious form of domestic violence, Riddle said. However, emotional abuse is also a form of domestic violence that people may not be aware of.

"Any kind of pattern of behavior that's designed to break down someone's self-esteem to try and keep someone trapped in a relationship or emotionally dependent on another person is considered abuse," Riddle said.

Riddle said domestic violence is a societal issue and that communities need to get together to stop the abuse and reinforce ideas from a young age that abusive behavior is not tolerated and is not normal.

"We're here for help as far as prevention," Riddle said. "The behavior begins early as sixth grade, so my job is to go to the high schools and junior highs around here and talk to students about healthy relationships."

Riddle said gender stereotypes play a role in domestic violence. Men are supposed to be masculine, and women are supposed to be submissive and quiet.

"One in nine men experience domestic violence, and people don't often think of men as victims," Riddle said. "Men don't like to report that they're being abused because they think they're supposed to be macho or they're afraid people will think they're weak."

The Safe House holds some events at the shelter. One event is a balloon release where the staff and clients gather around the shelter and release purple balloons.

"We also have a big banquet at the shelter where all of our clients, staff and volunteers cook something and bring it," Riddle said.

According to Henschel, domestic violence is more common than anybody could imagine, and it is a topic that nobody wants to talk about.

"I think Alpha Chi does a good job with bringing awareness on the subject instead of just hiding it underneath the mat," Henschel said. "Even girls I would never imagine were telling their stories. I think it's important to start becoming more aware of it."