Greek life tackles domestic abuse via ‘Breaking the Silence’ seminar

Adrian Suarez Avila/ News Director

When one of the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, who wished to remain anonymous, was in an abusive relationship, she was in denial.

In an effort to call attention to domestic abuse, the brothers of Theta Chi fraternity and sisters of Alpha Chi Omega met on Feb. 23 to host a domestic abuse forum titled, “Sacred Purpose: Breaking the Silence,” at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

Fidel Urbina, a junior business administration major and vice president of health and safety for Theta Chi’s Iota Omicron chapter at the University, was in charge of coordinating the event.

His intention was to target the University community in order to spread awareness of the issue, an issue he believes is oftentimes ignored.

“I believe that the topics that are done through the Greek community, like cancer and Alzheimer’s are also really important, but I feel like domestic violence is something that people don’t really cover, and it’s something that people basically silence,” he said.

In the process of coordinating the event, Urbina spoke to Alpha Chi Omega sorority, whose philanthropic efforts are targeted at domestic abuse. He also spoke to the University’s Victim Empowerment Program and The Lodge Miami.

The Lodge Miami, which was opened on May 14, 2004, by Victim Response, Inc., serves as a shelter for those individuals who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape in Miami-Dade County, according to the Victim Response web page.

Operated privately and funded publicly, The Lodge Miami represents the future of what may be accomplished as a result of both the public and private sectors coming together to work simultaneously on addressing issues that affect the community.

A gender-neutral center where all services are free and confidential, The Lodge Miami helps abused individuals get referrals to different agencies, identify transitional housing and identify therapy centers, among other things.

The Lodge assists with the whole process of helping abused individuals get back on their feet without leaving them to depend on someone who is making them go through a violent situation, according to Eliana Vazquez, victim advocate at The Lodge Miami who presented at the event.

Vazquez believes that spreading awareness of this issue in college environments is particularly important.

“This is the time that people are becoming independent and they are becoming their own, they’re trying to discover themselves, so this is information that they can use on themselves and to the people that they are going to be working with when they get out to the real world,” she said.

The anonymous sister of Alpha Chi Omega believes that informing the community on these issues is very important.

“I feel that, not only with my sorority, but events like this, it promotes the awareness of other [forms of domestic violence] that go around campus,” she said.

She credited the event for informing those in attendance about the flags of domestic abuse, indicators that reveal that a person is involved in an abusive relationship. She admitted that during the time of her relationship she wasn’t even aware of the flags she was exhibiting to her friends and family members.

When she noticed the changes in her life during the relationship, particularly the negative mindset that she was developing, she decided to get help.

She believes that support from friends and family members is just one of many resources that one may resort to.

In addition to visiting college campuses, The Lodge Miami also visits high schools, elementary schools, as well as LGBTQ clubs, which Vazquez says is important because members of this community are oftentimes forgotten.

When dealing with people of different cultures, Vazquez admits that drawing attention to cultural factors is critical. She mentioned that although a lot of people think it’s okay to be treated aggressively because the behavior is normal in their respective culture, it’s not okay when it involves violence.

Among the many topics that Vazquez covered were the definition of domestic violence and what it entails, what an abuser does, the dynamics of textual harassment, teen dating violence, and what a healthy relationship is.

One of the statistics that Vazquez shared was that 73 percent of domestic violence victims are female and that the same percentage of domestic violence cases go unreported.

Vazquez commented that some of the women that visit The Lodge Miami arrive in yoga clothes in order to disguise their intention to seek help from abusive partners.

She added that individuals in abusive relationships are in situations that are not easy to escape.

According to her, people oftentimes don’t understand that when a person tries to leave an abusive relationship the lethality of the situation increases, as the abusive partner may become more violent.

The anonymous sister feels that knowledge of one’s own feelings is just as important as knowledge of the dynamics of abuse.

“I think it’s really [about learning] about yourself. What do you feel, and how you should feel, to know or be aware that you are in the domestic violence relationship,” she said

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