According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives[i]. On average, more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day[ii]. 20-25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape[iii]. Only 2% of rapists will ever spend a day in prison[iv]. These statistics clearly illustrate the severity and prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault in our society, and yet the violence rages on. A major factor in their unimpeded continuation is that we, as a culture, consider speaking out about domestic violence and sexual assault uncomfortable and taboo. At Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF), we believe that the first step in seeing a decrease in these crimes is to shine light on them in the public eye, and the best way to do that is by talking about them.
The DCFOF Speaker’s Bureau is a group of volunteers committed to bringing attention to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as the services that DCFOF offers to survivors and their families. Volunteers speak to community members at tabling events, as well as other community groups, and receive community service hours and/or internship experience. They have come together to make a commitment to speaking up about domestic violence and sexual assault and to urge others to do the same.
A shining example of a Speaker’s Bureau volunteer is Alecia Martinez, who kindly gave us permission to share her story. In an email interview, Alecia told us that she was “born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was the oldest of six children, raised in a very poor environment by abusive, addict parents. In order to escape my dysfunctional home life, I married at 15 and had two sons. I stayed married to their father for 19 years.” After years of owning a salon and raising her children, Alecia has since joined the United States Navy, completed her Bachelors in Liberal Arts, and completed her MBA in 2011.
She has spent the last 7 years working for Fannie Mae, and it is through her a volunteer work event that Alecia came in contact with the DCFOF Speaker’s Bureau: “I had been looking for a worthy cause for which to volunteer for quite a while, [and] because I live in Denton County I felt DCFOF was a good fit. The fact that it was for the cause of domestic violence and sexual assault made it perfect for me, because I am passionate about the cause as I have been a victim. I have been the child raised in an environment where little [girls are] molested and women and children [are] neglected and/or physically abused as a way of life. I have been the woman in an abusive relationship, yet I stayed because had no one to help and nowhere else to go. I have been fortunate enough to escape the cycle of abuse. I have sincere empathy for the victims, and I know firsthand that there is hope.”
For many survivors, knowing that they have options and that their fellow community members care about what they have been through can be very comforting. At a tabling event at TWU, Alecia was “touched by the number of college students interested in the cause and volunteering. I doubt there are many people whose lives have not been touched in some way by domestic violence and sexual assault.” In addition to volunteering her skills with Speaker’s Bureau, Alecia has also worked at the DCFOF shelter and headed up a clothing drive for women transitioning back into the workplace. She said that she is planning to tutor clients of DCFOF who are studying for GED testing, and believes education is of great importance. She feels “like people are more likely to stay in an abusive environment if they believe they have no alternatives. It is our responsibility as a community and as fellow humans to do what we can to initiate change.”
Most who consider volunteering for a cause like this imagine themselves working in a shelter, as a hospital accompaniment advocate, or perhaps in our thrift store. When Alecia was asked why she chose Speaker’s Bureau above those things, she said that “I feel I have overcome much adversity because people informed me that I had choices and that I could change my life. I want to be that person for someone else. If I can point them in the right direction to get the help they need at DCFOF I will consider it a great honor… Some people believe in Karma, some say you reap what you sow; others say what goes around comes around. I believe we get back from the universe what we give. That’s why I want to invest in the betterment of humanity. I feel there is no worthier cause than to invest in victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. I chose the Speakers Bureau specifically because I am grateful that I have a very different life now. I want mine to be one of the voices helping to empower people to change their lives for the better. I want my voice to be one of hope and inspiration.”
To join DCFOF Speaker’s Bureau, email KShields@dcfof.org
For volunteering information in DCFOF shelter or thrift store, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To make a donation, visit https://www.dcfof.org/html/donate.php
[i] (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
[ii] Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.
[iii] Fisher BS, Cullen FT, Turner MG. 2000. The sexual victimization of college women. Washington: Department of Justice (US), National Institute of Justice; Publication No. NCJ 182369.
[iv] Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)