SLO walking, running from domestic violence

“Getting people involved in that age level in the college community is a really important step for us,” Women's Shelter employee Erin White said. “I think the more people learn about these things, the more they are able to spot it later in life.” Amber Kiwan — Mustang Daily

A five kilometer walk/run was held on Saturday to raise money to help fight issues of intimate partner violence on campus and in the San Luis Obispo community.

All proceeds from the “Walk Away from Intimate Partner Violence” event, hosted by Cal Poly’s Latina-interest sorority Sigma Omega Nu, went to the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County. According to the Women’s Shelter website, intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, is defined as a “pattern of coercive behavior used by adults or adolescents to control their partners involving physical assault or the threat of it.”

This coercive behavior can come in the form of physical, emotional, mental, economic or verbal abuse.

The Women’s Shelter Programs offer legal assistance, counseling, case management, emergency shelter and housing assistance for victims of intimate partner violence.

Women’s Shelter employee Erin White said the shelter, which served 620 individuals last year, has an ever-increasing need for fundraising in order to meet the needs of the community.

“We rely heavily on the community to help us fund the programs that we offer,” White said. “There’s a lot of up and down with state budgets and things that we have relied on (for funding) in the past.”

But White said raising awareness, another goal of the 5K race, is just as important as the monetary assistance.

“Getting people involved in that age level in the college community is a really important step for us,” White said. “I think the more people learn about these things, the more they are able to spot it later in life.”

To reach more college-aged individuals, the Women’s Shelter Program is often present at events and collaborates with Cal Poly’s Gender Equity Center, which houses programs such as Sexual Assault-Free Environment Resource (SAFER).

According to Gender Equity Center coordinator Christina Kaviani, intimate partner violence is common to any university.

“I don’t think we have more of a problem than other campuses,” Kaviani said. “But it happens commonly and people don’t really acknowledge it as what it is.”

To prevent this, the Gender Equity Center works within the campus community to inform students of what a healthy relationship really is.

“When you aim (the information) toward relationships, people want to hear about it,” Kaviani said. “It’s necessary for a young person to know the signs, how to talk to (a victim) and how to help them.”

Kaviani said the Gender Equity Center also recognizes the Women’s Shelter Program’s need for fundraising.

Its annual “Vagina Monologues” held on campus is a fundraising event that has raised money for the Women’s Shelter for the past seven years.

Sigma Omega Nu’s newer “Walk Away from Intimate Partner Violence” fundraising race is in its second year, but the sorority has worked with the Women’s Shelter Program since 2008.

“We work with them because we can see the results and see the difference we are making,” event co-coordinator and Sigma Omega Nu member Stephanie Reveles said. “It’s a very personal experience.”

Reveles said the previous organizations they worked with limited the sorority’s involvement to raising money and then simply sending a check.

The opportunities for more involvement that the Women’s Shelter Program offered gave Sigma Omega Nu members a deeper connection to the cause, Reveles said.

Specifically, events like food donation drives, where they can physically see the amount of food they are collecting and donating, and yard work at transitional homes for violence victims gave the Sigma Omega Nu women what they felt was a more meaningful, hands-on approach to volunteering and philanthropy.

The “Walk Away from Intimate Partner” Violence 5K race raised approximately $1,000 this year. All proceeds were raised through runner registration, raffles and donations.

The event began last year as social sciences alumna Emily Kent’s senior project.

Kent, who is an avid runner, had previously interned at the Women’s Shelter and decided to organize a race to help their cause.

“The sorority expressed a lot of interest, and they were great volunteers last year,” Kent said. “And now that I’ve graduated, they took over. It definitely looks like they have it under control.”

The sorority plans to continue the tradition of the “Walk Away from Intimate Partner Violence” race, hopefully raising more money and awareness each year.

Check out the slideshow of pictures from the event