Globally, almost one-in-three women experience abuse and violence in their relationships, whether it is sexual, physical, verbal, or mental. It is crucial that as a community, a platform is created for women to feel enough to share their stories. A space where they are heard, seen and believed. The Sigma chapter of the Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated is creating one such space.
The Sigma chapter laid its roots in SUNY Plattsburgh in 2001. Deeply rooted in sisterhood, leadership and guidance, the sorority was already a safe haven for Gissela Sosa when she started the annual “Stand With Her” in fall 2018. The event is a tool to create awareness for violence against women. Undergraduate members of the sorority, accompanied by alumni and friends if available, sleep outside the Angell College Center for 48 hours every year around the 3rd or 4th week of September. They plan the event starting from summer and collect donations in the form of money, food and blankets. The money directly goes to the Ray of Hope Walk to End Violence Against Women (ROHW), a part of the Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated’s national philanthropy of Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women.
The main goal of the Ray of Hope Walk and by extension, Stand With Her is to help women change the narrative from victims to survivors, create a space to share their stories, and end this global epidemic. ROHW has donated more than $55,000 toward empowering women subjugated to violence and abuse. This year undergraduate members of the sorority, Elizabett Baez and Charlin Peguero along with alumnae Isabel Espino sat outside the ACC for 48 hours from 4 p.m. Sept. 17 to 4 p.m. Sept. 19.
Baez stressed the importance of shedding light on women’s troubles and acknowledging the commonality of the issue. She believed that being believed and heard can result in compartmentalizing their trauma and moving on from it. The change in narrative removes the blame from the survivor and onto the perpetrator. It also makes it known to the male-dominated society that survivors of violence will be believed, and there is a community that will support them.
Unfortunately, the patriarchy has succeeded in creating an unsafe environment for survivors of violence to speak up and if they dare to do so, having them met with threats and more violence. Every woman deserves to live a life free from intimidation and the threat of violence looming over her throughout her life. So, it is crucial, now more than ever, as a society, to support and amplify women’s voices through events like Stand With Her and make the end of violence towards women an urgent goal.