Baylor students can help domestic abuse survivors this holiday season

The Women's Coalition Project partners with the Family Abuse Center, and they are hosting a Holiday Drive. A drop box is located at the BSB, and students can donate items for everyday use and gifts for families who can't afford presents. Chase (Junyan) Li | Photographer & Videographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

The holiday season is just around the corner. It’s hard to imagine what the holidays will look like during a pandemic, but that is the least of the Women’s Coalition Project’s worries.

The Women’s Coalition Project at Baylor has partnered with local non-profit The Family Abuse Center for a Holiday Drive to provide for people and their children who have been the victims of domestic abuse.

Houston senior and co-president of The Women’s Coalition Project Irina Grigoryeva said the items donated will allow people struggling to be able to participate in gift giving while not having to worry about their finances. Some of the items that are needed for donation are practical, but many are gift ideas for children and adults.

“They take in men and women who are escaping an abusive situation at home, and they provide shelter for them,” Grigoryeva said. “They also provide vocational training to help them get back on their feet … The Holiday Drive is just a very kind of sweet touch because there are kids there as well. It makes it a little bit more personal and ensures that they have holiday spirit considering that they’re in such a difficult situation at the moment.”

Orange County, Calif., senior and co-president of The Women’s Coalition Project Sanika Gotmare said the donation box for the drive is located in the Baylor Science Building in the east wing atrium. Gotmare said to check the list on the Family Abuse Center’s Instagram page for a comprehensive list of what to donate.

“I think even now with our current situation with the pandemic, it has impacted families so immensely, and not a lot of them have the resources to provide for their family or enjoy a lot of these leisurely activities like Christmas,” Gotmare said. “So we really take into account that they might not have that opportunity, but we’d love to start that through donating items.”

During the pandemic, because so many people have to stay home, there has been a rise in domestic violence, Gotmare said.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, there were fewer calls about domestic violence to hotlines because people who were victims never had a moment to safely ask for help.

“Economic instability, unsafe housing, neighborhood violence and lack of safe and stable child care and social support can worsen already tenuous situations,” Gotmare said. “[Intimate-partner violence] cannot be addressed without also addressing social factors, especially in the context of a pandemic that is causing substantial isolation.”

Gotmare said the added stress factor of the pandemic is even more of a reason to donate and get involved with the Women’s Coalition Project to serve Baylor students and even people beyond campus.

“We are a very service-based organization,” Gotmare said. “We want to make sure that our members are educated about what’s happening outside of their knowledge and also what’s happening inside the Baylor campus as well and ways that we can make the campus a safer place and a more welcoming place for all men and all women to be heard.”

The Women’s Coalition Project partners with organizations on and off campus. Grigoryeva said their goal is to maintain long term relationships with non-profit organizations so they can build a connection and continue to serve the community consistently.

“We saw that there’s a big gap between what the student body knew about Title IX and about their rights and about the issues that go on within their community,” Grigoryeva said. “There’s no particular organization that targets that. So we saw a void, and we decided to fill it. Additionally, we really wanted to have community outreach and have more students be educated about what goes on with the lives of women outside of Baylor and ways in which they could help.”

On Nov. 17, Gotmare said they will be partnering with the Baylor student organization It’s On Us to hold an event called “The Invisible Majority Advocacy Workshop.”

“We’re going to be talking about different underrepresented groups and how we can advocate for them if they’re sexual assault survivors or if they’re abuse survivors,” Gotmare said. “It’s ranging from minority groups — like racial minorities, women of color, low income families, LGBTQ, just kind of all across the board … We’ll definitely be giving some advice on how to advocate for those communities as well and how you can be an ally.”

Gotmare said they are looking to expand their partnerships and be a safe place for any student to voice their concerns about things happening on or off campus.

“If there’s a certain service organization in Waco that someone holds really close to their heart, then we try to incorporate that and maybe make it a service event or try to bring a speaker in,” Gotmare said. “So we’re really just collecting and gathering everybody’s thoughts and making sure that … we are for the community.”