Northwestern Women's Leadership Coalition

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence is a prominent problem in the United States and around the world. In the U.S., it impacts a large number of people across all demographics, as women and men of varying ages, education levels, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities and religions are affected. 1 out of 3 women, and 1 out of 4 men, have been victims of physical violence by a partner in their lifetime, and violence stemming from domestic abuse accounts for 15% of all violent crimes in the U.S. (https://ncadv.org/statistics). Domestic violence is systematic abusive behavior perpetrated by one intimate partner with the purpose to maintain power and control over the other. Abuse comes in many forms, including psychological, physical, sexual, and emotional. Given the complexities of intimate relationships, often victims of domestic violence choose to stay in the abusive relationship, or feel that they are unable to escape.

Women who do flee their abuser can sometimes find themselves with nowhere safe to go. Domestic violence is the direct cause of homelessness for approximately 1 out of 5 homeless women. In Chicago, Sarah’s Circle, a non-profit organization in Uptown, has been working since 1979 to support these women. Sarah’s Circle offers a variety of services to homeless women in Chicago—including access to basic necessities such as food, showers, laundry and computers—as well as counseling services to address domestic violence and other trauma. The organization also offers 50-bed interim housing and case management to help women find a home, and subsidized permanent housing for women who are chronically homeless.

Throughout October, which was Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), Northwestern’s WLC Community Development coordinators partnered with Sarah’s Circle to support this mission for the second year in a row. This year, WLC coordinated a donation drive for Sarah’s Circle at the school, through which students donated items such as backpacks, travel-sized toiletries, deodorant, disposable razors, and headphones. In addition, twenty-one WLC members made delicious baked goods for a bake sale, the proceeds of which were donated to Sarah’s Circle ($478). Lastly, a group of students spent a Saturday morning at Sarah’s Circle preparing a meal for and eating with the women who were staying there. 1L WLC board member Leksa describes the experience:

We trooped in carrying three crock pots full of barbecue chicken and a dozen grocery bags. We were greeted by several of the residents, who were very welcoming and happy to have visitors. We went straight to the kitchen, suited up with gloves, hairnets, and plastic aprons, and got to work.

On the menu for lunch: pulled chicken sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, salad, chocolate chip cookies, and lemonade. I chopped cucumbers shoulder-to-shoulder with a couple of my section-mates; meanwhile, others scooped cookie dough, boiled pasta, and made mac and cheese from scratch (impressive—I always go with a box!).

After all the residents had been served their lunch, we had the chance to chat and share a meal with them—they were so welcoming and friendly. It was a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday!

The WLC is very grateful to Sarah’s Circle for the opportunity to help support its important mission this October. To all the members of the law school who donated their time, money and belongings: We truly cannot thank you enough!

Samantha Fidler