The LMU Belles Service Organization led a 24-hour silent protest outside of William H. Hannon Library last Thursday and Friday, Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, in acknowledgement of Domestic Violence Awareness (DVA) Month. Members of the organization held signs about the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Some of these signs shared statistics about domestic violence in the United States. One read, “51.7% of Native American women, 41.2% of Black women and 29.7% of Hispanic women have experienced physical intimate partner violence (IPV).” Other signs promoted healthy relationships with slogans like “love shouldn’t hurt” and “love is kind.”
LMU Belles, established in 1960, is one of the two oldest service organizations at the school — the other being Crimson Circle. Originally, LMU Belles exclusively conducted service on campus. Sixty-one years later, the organization is still going strong, but now the group’s outreach extends beyond the gates of LMU to the greater Los Angeles community. Exemplifying their commitment to service, love and solidarity, LMU Belles show their support for those experiencing domestic violence every October.
The silent protest is just one of the six events that LMU Belles will put on during this year's DVA Month. On Oct. 8, the organization made care packages for Good Shepherd Shelter, a transitional housing shelter in Los Angeles, according to senior political science major and LMU Belles President Malia Thornton. The group also hosted self-defense classes on Regent’s Grass and a screening of "Behind Closed Doors," a 2016 documentary that closely follows the stories of three women who experienced domestic violence.
Although LMU Belles hosts DVA events throughout the entire month of October, the 24-hour silent protest is one of the “most well-known events for people who have been on campus before,” Thornton said. Thornton also expressed her excitement about being back on campus after last year’s series of online DVA events, saying, “it's really nice to do this event again.”
Because domestic violence often occurs in the privacy of intimate relationships, it is not always publicly addressed. Shedding light on the issue, LMU Belles were silent during their protest to “represent or symbolize the erasure” that domestic violence survivors can experience, Thornton explained.
Jade Young, a senior screenwriting major and member of LMU Belles, participated in the silent protest in solidarity with those people who have been silenced by domestic abuse. “These are often invisible wounds,” Young said, “but their survivors deserve to feel loved and seen and have their stories told if they so desire.”
Research suggests that domestic violence goes underreported. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that more than 10 million people are physically abused by an intimate partner every year, and that more than 20,000 calls are made to domestic violence hotlines every day in the United States. Still, just under half of nonfatal cases of domestic violence go unreported, according to the estimates of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
This is why LMU Belles are focused on spreading awareness about this issue. The group intends to “educate the LMU community” about “a topic that's often not spoken about,” according to Thornton. But the group doesn’t want to focus solely on the cold facts of domestic violence — it also focuses on the emotional effects of domestic violence. Challenging the harmful kinds of relationships that enable violence, LMU Belles has made “love is kind” the theme for these events. “Statistics can divorce the reader from the intimate emotion of a situation,” Young said. “But when I stand, I stand not for the numbers on the page but for the people they represent — the person in a hurting relationship they think is love, the person who’s coping with a party flirtation gone south.”
But DVA Month is not yet over, and neither is Belles' advocacy. Next, the organization will hold a candlelight vigil on Oct. 28 at Foley Fountain. Thornton explained that the event is open to the whole LMU community. The vigil will feature speakers both in and out of the organization who will share personal experiences with domestic violence. Anonymous anecdotes will also be shared at the vigil.
The last event for DVA month will be a walk/run on Oct. 30 at the Bluff Creek Trail. The group will meet at Leavey Circle at 10 a.m.
Recruitment for LMU Belles takes place during the spring semester and is “open to female-identifying and gender-nonconforming students,” according to Thornton.
Check out the LMU Belles Instagram @lmubelles for more information about DVA Month and how to get involved with the organization.
Donations can be made to NCADV to help support people who experience domestic violence.