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Doves of North Texas brings awareness to domestic violence, empowering women

Doves of North Texas brings awareness to domestic violence, empowering women

Doves of North Texas brings awareness to domestic violence, empowering women
October 25
00:44 2018

“Do you have any spare pads or tampons?”

This is the question the Doves of North Texas members ask each girl who passes by their table in the Union. Talking about feminine hygiene products can cause discomfort to some, but the members have a good reason for asking.

Every product put in the small container on their table in the Union will be donated to Denton County Friends of the Family to help a woman in need.

It is the motivation behind everything the multicultural organization does: to start a conversation and bring awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault. By focusing on these issues, the organization hopes to empower women through positivity.

“There’s a lot of stuff about domestic violence people just don’t discuss,” Natalie Belokin, president of the Doves of North Texas said. “I think it’s important for us to be out here spreading the message.”

Being the light

The Doves of North Texas was created in fall 2016 and is now in its fifth semester. The group currently has 12 active members who come to the weekly meetings at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays in room 250 of the Business Leadership Building.

“At meetings we really try to make ourselves knowledgeable so we can [reach out] to our friends who don’t come to meetings,” Belokin said. “We learn about things like how to be a supportive friend, how to identify and properly question your friend like, “Hey, I see some warning signs. Tell me if I’m off base, but I’m just concerned. Is there anything going on in your relationship?’”

Although the Doves are focused on women’s issues and empowerment, it is not a female-only organization. The group just had their first male member join, making the Doves’ effort something both men and women are bringing awareness to.

Some of the ways they carry out their mission is by educating their members on the different resources available for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Although the Doves advocate for these issues, they are still a student-run organization that does not have certification to deal with legal issues. However, they use their platform to direct those in need to helpful resources. Denton County Friends of the Family is one place they refer to women seeking refuge.

“[This organization] is just a friendly advocate because none of us are certified or have any paid positions,” Belokin said. “If it’s a student approaching us, I would point them to the Dean of Students page because they have a whole thing on safety and domestic violence.”

Another way they shine a light on domestic abuse and women’s empowerment is by partnering with other women-focused organizations on campus.

HerCampus co-president Kiasi Young collaborated with the Doves and other organizations to put on a women’s panel in spring 2018. She reached out to Belokin and the Doves to help with the panel after seeing them on Twitter.

“I remember she was so sweet, and I really liked that she was so open when all the women organizations would meet up,” Young said. “She was always happy and ready to get stuff done, and that made me want to work with them.”

The collaboration between Doves of North Texas and HerCampus created a successful women’s empowerment panel. Their partnership demonstrated the importance of women-focused organizations that work together.

“Coming together [to try] to build a sisterhood just gives us strength in numbers, and being there to support each other gives us a better turnout,” Young said.

A student donates some of their pads to the Doves of North Texas’ donation drive for Denton County Friends of the Family. Emilia Capuchino

Part of a bigger conversation

The growth of the group has come at a pivotal moment for women’s empowerment around the world due to social movements like #MeToo that have gained momentum recently.

“I think in society today there’s a need for it, and of course the #MeToo campaign has really brought that all to light,” Belokin said. “Within that, how can we — who aren’t celebrities — make sure that we’re putting out good, solid info?”

For Chelsi Harris, social media manager and member of Doves, the way some people have responded to these social women’s movements has opened her eyes to the scary reality of many people’s views.

“I feel like you can use fear in two ways: You can cower or you can use that to be a catalyst for change,” Harris said. “As we are with the way women’s issues are being handled currently in our society, it’s more so a wake-up call to keep going.”

The issues the Doves of North Texas are working to talk about and inform people of are entrenched in some deep political discussions. However, the organization is not focused on making a political statement. They want to focus on bringing awareness to the reality of domestic violence and the way it affects women today.

“This is definitely an important issue, and I think a lot of us agree that we don’t want to get swept up in the politics and become obsolete for anybody,” Belokin said.

Regardless of the social and political climate surrounding the ideas of women empowerment, members of the Doves said they have experienced an immense amount of support from men and women on campus.

“Something as simple as tabling or booking a room can so easily bog us down,” Belokin said. “Hearing a compliment reminds us that we are important on campus and people do like our message.”

With two years under their belts as an organization, the Doves of North Texas are looking forward to continuing conversations about domestic violence and helping equip members to handle people in bad situations.

“We care and want to raise awareness and want to have these tough conversations of, ‘You might be in a bad situation, how can we get you out of that?’” Belokin said.

From their weekly meetings to their donation drives, the work the Doves of North Texas are doing to spark awareness and conversation is worth it if they are able to help women who need it. For those in the organization, they believe that creating a small change on campus will eventually impact the rest of society.

“I feel like your campus is a reflection of what’s going on outside,” Harris said. “If we can make sure people are on the same page at UNT, then we can start impacting the world outside of campus.”

Featured Image: The Doves of North Texas held a tampon and pad donation drive on October the 16th and October 18th for Denton County Friend of the Family, a women’s shelter. Emilia Capuchino

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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