Students share experiences to spread awareness

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Non-Traditional Student Club members join for a clothesline walk for Domestic Violence Awareness Month Oct. 23 north of Oppenheimer. Club members walked from the empowerment center to Loftin.  Photo by Sergio Ramirez

Non-Traditional Student Club members join for a clothesline walk for Domestic Violence Awareness Month Oct. 23 north of Oppenheimer. Club members walked from the empowerment center to Loftin. Photo by Sergio Ramirez

“It ends with me” was the theme for this year’s clothesline project.

By LUCIA ESPINO

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

During the Clothesline Project, the Non-Traditional Student Club raised awareness for domestic violence by sharing their experience as victims.

Roxana Avendano, American Sign Language sophomore and club president, and business sophomore Angela Polendo, shared their experiences as victims of domestic violence in interviews Oct. 10.

“I didn’t want my son to be like his dad, and I definitely didn’t want my daughter to be like me,” Avendano said.

During one of the times she was being abused, Avendano realized her children were more likely to fall into a similar situation.

She said the thought was all she needed to stop the abuse and act against her husband.

“That day, for the first time, I fought back,” Avendano said. “I called 911. When I was talking to the operator he grabbed the phone line cables and ripped them off the wall.”

The operator was able to trace the call and police officers were dispatched to the residence.

Her husband was arrested and charged with assault, along with obstruction of a 911 call, Avendano said.

Avendano said she had separated from her husband twice before but decided to give him another chance hoping he would change, and then they could finally be the happy family they were pretending to be.

“The first day back at home, he was lovely and kind, but the next day the abuse continued. I tried marriage counseling and help from church, but nothing worked,” Avendano said.

After years of trying to help her husband change, Avendano said she realized the abuse would not stop if her husband did not want it to.

She said at the beginning of the abuse, she thought it was normal and nothing else but a way of life, the same thought Polendo had.

Polendo said ever since she was 8 years old, she was afraid to wake up and find her mom dead from abuse.

She said she was well aware of the abuse her mother and other women in her family went through, which was why she thought abuse was normal.

Her mother was the first in her family to break the cycle of domestic violence, and after that, everyone in her family decided to follow her footsteps, Polendo said.

“Her strength finally broke the cycle for my family,” Polendo said.

During the time she was trying to help her mom get out of domestic violence, Polendo said, “I realized I was a verbal abuser myself.”

“The victims are not just the ones getting abused, but also everyone around them,” Polendo said.

After 25 years of domestic violence, she was diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Polendo said.

Avendano’s and Polendo’s experiences were reflected in some messages written on white shirts Oct. 22. in the mall.

The project is called the Clothesline Project, and it allows participants to write encouraging messages for and in memory of domestic violence victims.

“Love should not hurt,” “After the first strike … act,” “Domestic violence hurts everyone” and “Be strong” were among the messages written by students.

Club members gave information about where to get help and how to help others who might be going through domestic violence.

The office of student life provided small gift bags with candies and chocolates, along with a domestic violence awareness button for everyone who designed a shirt.

All 26 shirts created, along with some from previous years, were hung on a clothesline and walked by students and staff from the empowerment center to Loftin Student Center Oct. 23.

“The violence stops here” and “Say no to domestic violence,” were shouted along the way.

This year, the club is also sponsoring a Hopeline for the first time.

The Hopeline is a project created by Verizon Wireless, where anyone can donate old cell phones to give to domestic violence victims, said Melissa Flores Valencia, a Seguir Adelante counselor.

This cell phone drive is to promote safety, security and freedom for victims, according to the Verizon Wireless website.

Cell phones can be dropped off at the empowerment center, Room 312 of the nursing and allied health complex, Room 214 of the early childhood studies building or Room 150 of Loftin Student Center until Nov. 9.

Polendo and Avendano said they want others to know that abuse should not happen at all and even if it is just verbal, it is still abuse.

“I want other women to know there is life outside of domestic violence,” Avendano said.

“It ends with you,” Polendo said.

For more information call the empowerment center at 210-486-0455 or visit the center on 703 Howard St. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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