Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Evening of Inspiration and Hope with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of connecting with Kristen Paruginog, Founder and Executive Director of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence. In 2011, Kristen shared her story of experiencing domestic violence on social media to empower victims and survivors of domestic violence. She received an outpouring of support, and an influx of stories from victims and survivors. With over 13,000 followers on Facebook, Break the Silence has grown tremendously since its start and provides education, individual services, and a forum for survivors to begin their healing process.

Kristen recently embarked on a ten-city national tour with Break the Silence, and Staten Island was her final stop. Along the way she has shared her story, connected with survivors of abuse at each location, and raised awareness surrounding domestic violence. As a former pageant competitor, Kristen has also been working to connect with titleholders from across California (her home state), Massachusetts (a tour stop), and New York! It was a pleasure to join Kristen, Lauren Park (the Break the Silence New York Chapter Leader) and supporters from the local community--including Jamie Lynn Macchia, Miss Staten Island 2014.

Jamie, Kristen, and Me -- Isn't this BTS t-shirt awesome?! 

Attendees were treated to a delicious meal at the Oriental Plaza, and there were a ton of incredible raffles taken place. While I didn't win any of the prizes I had my eye on, the raffles were a huge success! Over $900 was raised to support the work that Break the Silence is doing. 

Jamie and I enjoyed dinner with our lovely mothers and Michael, a Miss NY supporter

Kristen and Lauren both took the time to tell us a bit of their stories--and both are incredibly strong women who faced dating abuse while in their late teens. Their stories were a sobering reminder that domestic abuse is an issue that transcends age, race, social status, family life, and all other bounds. Their stories are one of the reasons I remain committed to addressing domestic violence with teens who are just beginning to date. I was able to speak to attendees about my goals as a titleholder promoting a platform related to domestic violence, and about the work I have done in the past. I am looking forward to working with Break the Silence throughout my year of service and beyond.

Speaking about my platform, L8ER H8ER: Saying Goodbye to Teen Dating Violence

Aside from supporting Break the Silence, I was so glad that this evening gave me the chance to get to know Jamie, Miss Staten Island, better! She is such a sweetheart and so incredibly committed to serving her community. While her platform is Pediatric Cancer, she has attended hundreds (seriously!) of events as a local titleholder to support various causes impacting those on Staten Island and beyond. She gave me some great advice about practical preparations for Miss New York, and I am looking forward to spending pageant week with her! 

So glad that being a part of the Miss New York Class of 2014 has introduced me to such fabulous young women like Jamie!

Jamie and I also met Lauren's adorable niece! She thought Jamie and I were princesses, and was absolutely enamored with Jamie's crown and necklace. Jamie made her night when she gave her the chance to wear her crown!

I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to attend this event! I am also really excited to spread the word about Break the Silence with the rest of my Miss New York sisters. Kristen is committed to a future without domestic violence--and she is dedicated enough to make that future a reality (seriously--she attended this event with the flu and still rocked it)! This may be my first blog post about Break the Silence, but it will not be my last! Stay tuned--there are some fun opportunities for collaboration coming up, including the possibility of a trip to California this fall to speak at Break the Silence's Diversity Takes Action Conference.

As my Miss New York sister Courtney Sheridan's platform title states: "Silence Hides Violence." Break the Silence is giving victims of domestic violence and advocates like myself the chance to speak out in a way that is being heard across the nation by way of social media. The best part? People are listening.  

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