Cheers to a Night of Success!

This past Saturday, February 8, 2014 I hosted my first fundraiser and young adult dating violence awareness event and it was an absolute success. I am still coming down off of my high, that’s how awesome things turned out!

I first came up with this event idea in October 2013, as a teen dating violence survivor I really wanted to do something special for the upcoming Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. I decided on hosting a fundraiser for Break the Cycle, our primary national teen dating violence prevention program.

The whole planning process was full of up and downs; I reached out to business after business only to be met with a “no” more often than a “yes”. Some business owners were on board, but offered me a time that would barely bring out 20 guest, other businesses declined and said that they were very selective with their donations. I am guessing teen dating violence awareness is not their thing.

In December I had just about given up and started brainstorming new ideas to commemorate the awareness month. During the New Year holiday I reached out to the Dyckman Bar-- I had just been for the first time as a guest of a friend’s birthday celebration. I knew that Dyckman Bar was a fairly new and happening bar in Washington Heights so I gave one last shot in the dark. The very next day they were on board for the event, asked me what day I wanted to invite my guest and even offered each guest with a paid donation a complimentary cocktail.

After securing the venue I called on friends and family to help assist in making this night one to remember. My close friends donated printouts, cookies and lollipops for the gift bags and these cute white raffle tickets with purple ribbon. Just nights before the event I sat in the kitchen with my grandmother, stuffing and closing bags. I reached out to nearly 90 businesses located in New York City for raffle prize donations and received prizes from 9a Kitchen, Nail Lounge, Land Yoga, Creme de la Creme Nails by Angie, Mike Oliver Digital, and Harlem Shake. By the end of January everything came together for a successful event.

I was very nervous on the day of the event, unsure of who would should up but it was a great turnout; I had the support of friends, family, colleagues, strangers, and agencies that I have worked with in the past. Collectively we raised $1,710 for Break the Cycle. Our guest enjoyed an evening of cocktails and music while participating in our "Love is..." activity and listening to the MC, Lacey, highlight teen dating violence and myself give a survivor's testimony.

You can view our photo album for photographer J. Hernandez here and another album from photographer Mike Oliver here.

I look forward to hosting future events and working with Dyckman Bar again!

Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

In February 2010 Congress declared the month National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. This year in President Obama's Presidential Proclamation he stated that, "each year, 1 in 10 American teenagers suffers physical violence at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend, and many others are sexually or emotionally abused."

I was 17 when I began a relationship that nearly ended with me losing my life. I knew nothing about dating violence, manipulation, and control but somehow I found myself entangled in this web of madness for years. I was not aware of any help lines, survivor programs, or any other teens going through the same things that I did.

1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and of that group, 1 in 5 will first experience it between the ages of 11 and 17.

Just days before the 2011 new year the relationship ended and I literally found myself in a fight for my life. A few days after that, the same person decided they would retaliate by trying to end my mother's life.

Somewhere in between one of my many therapy sessions and visiting my mother in the hospital I decided that my tragedy would not be in vain.

I have my life; I have a voice, therefore I have a mission.

I have participated in major magazine articles campaigns against dating violence, symposiums, conferences, panels, walks, daytime television shows, documentaries and a number of other awareness projects. And yes, I still feel the need to share my story, my knowledge, and my experiences.

Last year at a workshop I was in a room of approximately 100 people (mainly social workers), with the majority of them being women. I stood before them to give a survivors testimony and at the end of the conference I had a bunch of secret survivors share their stories with me. I have come to the conclusion that the 1 in 4 statistic is more like 1 in 2.

This month we are promoting teen dating violence awareness and healthy relationships through social media outlets and an awareness event.

No more turning a blind eye, or thinking out of sight, out of mind. Help me educate others and raise awareness to this preventable social ill.

Thanks, Q

New Year, New Me!

With just 15 days into the New Year I am feeling renewed and ready for the grind! It’s easy to sit around worrying about what would happen if you fail, but it is extremely counterproductive to not even try. I have to remember to focus on the things that I can change and to remain positive about the things in life that I cannot control. With that being said, I have so many things planned for 2014; I am looking forward to professional and personal growth!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'”

While I did not make any New Year resolutions, I have set some new high goals for myself that do involve the education of others. My commitment to raise awareness to dating violence has reached new heights. Dating violence is a community issue and I plan on making it one! I am actively planning three awareness events in the New York City area, one of which will take place on February 8th in Washington Heights. Things have been a struggle but they are coming along just fine.

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday so I cannot help but to quote his words of wisdom and courage. The great activist said “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” And I plan to do just that--keep moving forward.

2014, let’s go!

Miles into the Journey

Three years to this date, I decided to reclaim my life. I was tired of living in fear and misery. I decided that I was worth love, worth living a healthy and happy life.

Surviving and overcoming a violent relationship has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. I have learned so much about myself in this healing process. I have learn the true meanings of love, trust, and support. There have been so many ups and downs, but I know that my journey is not over.

I will continue to share my story, promote healthy relationships, and raise awareness to dating violence.

Thank you all for your support.

Upcoming Projects

Now that Domestic Violence Awareness Month is over, things have quieted down for me. From the first week to the last week of October I was speaking at two events a week, participating in multiple awareness walks, symposiums and workshops. I created an awareness video and photography project, Domestic Violence Unmasked, featuring a photo a day for 31 days. The project focuses on the myths & social stigmas surrounding domestic violence, victim blaming, prevention, resources for domestic violence victims, and survivor solidarity.

By mid-October, I was burnt out and when friends and family members asked me about upcoming projects I told them that I was “all dv’ed out”. Although I love sharing my story with others, hoping to inspire other survivors to speak out, I was overwhelmed. I vowed to take a much needed break from my advocacy work from November to January 2014. In the first week of November I realized that I was bored out of my mind and when you are passionate about your mission, it is hard to sit idle. 

I started brainstorming projects and event ideas for February 2014, National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.So far I’ve come up with two projects, one focusing on teen dating violence statistics and a fundraiser for Break the Cycle. Break the Cycle is our national teen dating violence agency that have programs like the National Dating Abuse Helpline and "Love is Respect". 

Break the Cycle has a fundraiser party theme, "Valentine's Day Anytime", which I thought was very fitting for the February holiday. I have everything planned out before having the location, date and time set. I have reached out to local restaurants and lounges in the Harlem, New York community hoping to secure a venue soon. I plan to reach my fundraising goal with raffle tickets, a silent auction, selling awareness trinkets, and donations. I want to make this a fun and educational event.

Hopefully the next time I post something up it will be a flyer with details for February's fundraiser!