Jackets, a few blankets, snacks, a jug of orange juice and water accompanied Omega Phi Beta sisters Alejandra DeLeon and Jeany Martinez as they slept outside on the ground in peaceful protest last Friday —a protest that would last for two days.
The pair hosted the second-annual Stand With Her Sleepover event in front of a bench in the middle of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Amity Plaza in support of October being the National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
“We are trying to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to experience a little about what [victims] experience.” DeLeon said.
Their 48-hour adventure started at noon. As students were headed to their afternoon classes, these women were setting up camp. People often don’t see the struggles victims face, DeLeon said. Onlookers just stared, and the ones that stopped “were shocked.”
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly three in 10 women and one in 10 men in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and stalking by a partner.
Women with these partners are often afraid to leave due to financial instability and some end up homeless, DeLeon said. Martinez emphasized that it can happen to anyone.
“It can happen at any age, 18 and up usually,” Martinez said. “It’s more touching for [OPBS] because we get to relate to other women through [the sleepover].”
That night, the pair endured high winds with a low of 40 degrees. The next night was a slightly higher 54 degrees, but the sisters still had to bundle up in hoodies and sweatpants.
Omega Phi Beta Sorority Inc. is a national sorority whose values include sisterhood, diversity, leadership, service and academic excellence. Through its philanthropy, “Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women,” OPBS is nationally raising awareness for prevention of violence affecting gender, including domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual mutilation, stalking and human trafficking, according to the sorority’s website.
“It’s hard for [victims] to come out sometimes,” OPBS Alumni and Community Service Chair Representative Caprice Johnson said. “Really know that there are support services out there.”
The sorority doesn’t offer services directly, Johnson said. OPBS holds educational prevention workshops throughout the semester, holds informationals and does community service in support. More information is available on its Facebook page and national site.
The national corporation is holding a Ray of Hope walk Oct. 5, which will focus on all genders joining the movement to end violence, in an effort to create a safe and equitable society for all. The locations include New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
Atter DeLeon and Martinez wrapped up on Sunday at noon, they disposed of their camp into white plastic trash bags and ate their first real meals within the last few days. The pair noted that while their demonstration may have ended, thousands of people still struggle with domestic abuse.
“It’s a real issue,” Martinez said. “It’s ongoing.”
Students can contact the Title IX office on campus if they or a loved one feel unsafe. Students can also call Behavioral Health Services North STOP Domestic Violence at 1-888-563-6904 and visit .bhsn.org/stop-domestic-violence.php.