Friday morning, St. Jude House Family Violence Prevention Center hosted its inaugural Bruncheon to Break the Silence at Villa Cesare in Schererville. The event aimed at raising awareness for domestic violence, and took place on International Women’s Day.
“The theme is really to break the silence surrounding domestic violence,” said Ryan Elinkowski, Director of St. Jude House. “There are five words that make domestic violence a silent killer - it’s none of my business.”
The celebration of International Women’s Day included local vendors such as My Dolly’s Unique and Life Expressions Décor, brunch, as well as an inspirational story told by domestic violence survivor Sandy Martinez.
“This is actually the first time I’ve ever told my story,” Martinez said. “It’s taken me many years to get to this point, and it’s very empowering.”
Martinez said her motivation to finally break her own silence was to help spread crucial awareness of domestic violence that society so desperately needs.
“If even one person walks away with a little bit more awareness, my job was done today.” Martinez continued.
The program began with a prayer led by Pastor Merlyn Lawrence of the Highland Immanuel United Church of Christ, who completed some of the first groundbreaking research on domestic violence in South Africa, and started the first domestic violence shelter there as well. Following a delicious brunch comprised of a variety of breakfast foods, the audience listened to Martinez’s courageous testimony.
“I could’ve stayed the victim, but that ‘V’ doesn’t stand for victim anymore, it stands for victor,” Martinez proudly stated. “I won, I got my life back, and to stand here now and tell my story feels so good.”
Martinez’s captivating story moved the audience beyond words, brought tears to the eyes of many listeners, and was met with a standing ovation. She truly captured what it means to be a survivor of abuse, and the importance for raising awareness for this pressing issue.
St. Jude House board members Kelley Wotherspoon and Linda Kiger emphasized the impact Martinez’s contribution, as well as the bruncheon as a whole, has on the way domestic violence is addressed by the community.
“Any time you’ve got something as dark and hurtful as domestic violence, it gains so much power by staying in the dark,” Wotherspoon said. “We truly believe that if we can bring an issue like this into the light, it will make it more acceptable to talk about, and increase the odds of more people coming forward to receive help.”
“It’s also important to highlight that this is not just a women’s issue,” Kiger added. “It happens to males, females, the LGBTQ community…domestic violence does not discriminate, and neither does St. Jude House; we are here to provide services to anyone who needs help, no matter what their situation is.”
To learn more about St. Jude House, their mission, and how you can help end the silence, visit their website at https://www.stjudehouse.org/.