By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Last week, administrators stood alongside students outside Lee Hall and invited students to donate new washcloths, pots, pans, high chairs, blankets and pillows while they strolled Campus Walk. Though this may seem like a strange list, the items hold a crucial purpose for the members of the UMW community.
For, UMW has been helping Empowerhouse, a local nonprofit organization that aids victims of domestic violence, to complete a shelter.
In its partnering with Empowerhouse, UMW is accepting donated supplies that victims of domestic violence and their families could use, including unused toiletries, bedding, kitchen supplies, baby and child needs. The shelter, which is only $220,000 away from its $2.4 million goal, will be used to house people that their first shelter could not.
According to Empowerhouse’s website, the organization was forced to turn away 56 households who requested room in their shelter due to lack of space. The number was lowered to 26 because of help in the community.
However, the organization no longer wants lack of space to interfere with offering a safe space to people who need it. “We still were forced to turn away local people who needed us because we were full,” the website said. “It is not good enough.”
In addition to holding a drop-off on Campus Walk, UMW also hosted a performance organized by Empowerhouse called “Boil the Frog Slowly,” which took place on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the HCC Digital Auditorium. The play highlighted the stories of local victims of domestic violence. In addition to being played at the HCC, “Boil the Frog Slowly” was also performed at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Headquarter location, New Vision Kingdom of God Ministries and at Germanna Community College’s Sealy Auditorium.
According to Marissa Miller, coordinator for prevention and advocacy to the office of Diversity and Inclusion, UMW and Empowerhouse have worked together on several occasions, particularly in April for Sexual Assault Awareness month and in October for Domestic Violence Awareness month and the Red Flag Campaign, which discusses healthy and unhealthy relationships.
When Empowerhouse had notified UMW of the new shelter, Miller said since she had become coordinator for prevention and advocacy, she and the committee have had more opportunities in the semester to address sexual assault awareness within the school, including the monthly forum “Title IX Tuesdays” and hiring a new sexual assault prevention specialist, Avina Ross, who had previously been at the Richard Bland College of William and Mary. UMW aids in building shelter for victims of domestic violence
“In my new role, we’re doing a lot more,” Miller said. “Which means Empowerhouse gets to do a lot more.”
The committee who helped organize the donation drop off and other events during the month included members of student groups SAVE, Feminists United and Alpha Mu Sigma.
According to Miller, the shelter could help students and employees at UMW in addition to members of the community. Miller said that the university can assist and provide plenty of housing accommodations for students who are survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault. For students who live off campus (and on campus) and may not want to get the school involved, Miller wants students to know that there are other options that exist in the community, and that students have a choice in their living situation following a traumatic event.
Students contacting UMW for assistance will have numerous accommodations, reporting and resource opportunities available to them. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
(540) 654-1058. If students choose not to reach out to the school, Empowerhouse and RCASA provide similar resources in the community. Information about reporting and resources can also be found here: http://diversity.umw.edu/title-ix/.