The empowerment center offers services for victims of domestic abuse.
By Tania Flores
This college is observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the Clothesline Project Walk Against Domestic Violence, which featured people writing messages on T-shirts Oct. 9 and marching to Loftin Student Center to display them Oct. 10.
Five participants gathered on the patio of the empowerment center Oct. 9 to create T-shirt messages to express their stories about domestic violence. Others prepared T-shirts elsewhere.
The event was sponsored by the Services for Women and Non-traditional Student Club.
Business management sophomore Irma Gurriere, vice president of the student organization, said she joined the organization after learning about the services offered to students and getting support from them.
“I experienced several years of domestic violence,” she said. “I kept it hidden because I was ashamed and thought people were going to look down on me,” Gurriere said in the T-shirt message-making event.
She said she wants to bring awareness to domestic violence by participating with a T-shirt design and to show people they don’t need to hide the abuse they have experienced.
She said she wants victims to know they can get assistance.
Gurriere said with the help and support of the club, she was determined to work toward a degree.
“Earning a degree will give me the strength and satisfaction to live an independent life,” she said.
Nursing freshmen Merida Flores said she was there to share her story about verbal violence.
“No one has the right to hold you back, belittle or take your happiness away,” Flores said.
She said, by keeping her faith and talking to friends, she found the courage to leave her abuser.
“I want to tell people that if you’re dealing with abuse, it’s not for a lifetime, and there is hope to get out and live your dream,” Flores said.
About 45 individuals met at the empowerment center Oct. 10 to begin the walk to Loftin.
“No more violence no more silence, together we can end domestic violence” were chants by the participants as they carried a clothesline showing the messages on the T-shirts.
The demonstration line included purple balloons and an enlarged cardboard photo of Kristine Meza, who lost her life to domestic violence while attending this college.
Once the participants arrived at the mall, northwest of Loftin, they formed a half circle in front of a podium.
Dr. Helen Vera, director of the services for women and non-traditional students, spoke of the purpose of the event.
“We begin by mourning those who have passed away due to domestic violence, those who have survived and connecting with those who advocate to end domestic violence,” Vera said.
Roxana Avendano, former student and survivor of domestic violence, also discussed her journey.
Avendano said the day she decided to leave her perpetrator, she took her 3-year-old daughter and ran to the bus stop as fast as she could. After arriving at the bus stop and not knowing he was following her, he approached her, hit her and kicked her multiple times.
She said the violent incident took place in front of her daughter and others waiting for the bus.
When she attended this college, she found support from the Services for Women and Non-traditional Student Club. The staff guided her to resources and programs to help move her life forward in a positive direction, Avendano said.
She has participated in the Clothesline Project for the last four years. She does it to give back to the club and to show others that by speaking up, they can break the silence of abuse and get help, Avendano said.
Another participant of the clothesline project was Laura Acevedo, mother of Meza who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Feb. 11, 2011.
She joined the Clothesline project to share her daughter’s story and hopes to help someone dealing with dating/domestic violence, Acevedo said Oct. 10 in an interview.
She said her daughter, who attended the nursing program at this college, was beautiful, smart and passionate about helping people and had a long life ahead of her.
Her daughter made the decision to leave an abusive relationship and took steps to end it. Her daughter’s ex-boyfriend was insistent on keeping contact with her, Acevedo said.
He demonstrated possessive behavior by physically harming her, threating to hurt and or kill her and her family, following her, sending aggressive text messages and making phone calls and damaging her car, Acevedo said.
Her daughter was independent, she said.
Acevedo said her daughter did not reveal the abuse for a long time because she was independent, had a busy school and work schedule, was afraid, felt shame and probably did know of the help available at the empowerment center.
After Meza told her mom about the ordeal, she told her daughter to come back to her hometown of Laredo to be with her. Acevedo said Meza wanted to continue going to school and working in San Antonio.
Acevedo said that she spoke to her daughter every day and gave her advice.
“I want everyone to know that domestic violence doesn’t have a stereotype and it can happen to anyone,” she said.
“It’s not just happening to an exclusive population, to people living on a certain side of town or to people earning a certain amount of money,” Acevedo said.
She said she is grateful for the Clothesline Project because it brings awareness of domestic violence, and she doesn’t want other families to deal with this type of situation.
For information on dating or domestic violence, visit the empowerment center or call 210-486-0455.