Alicia’s Village: a shelter of safety against domestic violence
May 26, 2015
Over five years ago, Alicia Consuegra, an ordinary woman living in Miami, fell victim to domestic violence. To help others going through similar situations, Consuegra started Alicia’s Village, an organization that strives to better the lives of victims of domestic violence.
The Panther: How has being a domestic violence survivor changed your attitude on life?
Alicia Consuegra: Im not sure that is has specifically changed my attitude on life but it has definitely changed me. After I left my abusive relationship I knew that I didn’t ever want to be in a relationship like that again. I decided to take some time to really get to know myself and what I wanted out of life. Through that process I found my passion and learned to use my voice to stand up for myself, for others and the things I believe in large and small. I found a strong woman and learned to trust her and her instincts.
TP: How did you come up with the idea of creating Alicia’s Village?
AC: I was very blessed, when I left my relationship I ran to my sister’s house and stayed at my parents’ house rather than a shelter. I received so much support from my family, friends and coworkers that even today I get choked up thinking about it. I felt very strongly about paying those blessings forward so I organized a Christmas gift drive for the women and children at a local shelter for domestic violence survivors and their children. Again, the support I received from my “village” was overwhelming, and were able to bring a little “magic” to those families. When they asked at the shelter who we were, one of my friends said “Alicia’s Village”, that was over 5 years ago and Alicia’s Village was born.
TP: How does Alicia’s Village help domestic violence survivors?
AC: We do a variety of things: we collect gently used items throughout the year, clothing, household items and even furniture that survivors need for their new life; we hold an annual Christmas Gift Drive; we have food drives when needed; we collect school supplies and book bags for the new school year; we volunteer at different holiday events at the shelters (Valentine’s Day Make Overs, Easter Egg Hunts, Mother’s Day Brunch, etc); and this year we coordinated welcome bag drives at various local high schools.
TP: What is the most rewarding part of helping other domestic violence survivors?
AC: There are so many rewards to me personally that its hard to choose. The way a child struts when he receives a new book bag filled with school supplies, knowing that it is probably the first new thing he/she has received since entering the shelter. The smile on a woman’s face when she looks in the mirror after one of our makeover nights. Watching one of the women I have mentored blossom though time. Seeing the willingness of all the people that make up Alicia’s Village to give of themselves,their time and their resources to make a difference. Bringing awareness to young women, seeing them engage in conversation and knowing/hoping that I am preventing a women from going through what I went through.
MM: How have you impacted their lives?
AC: I think its very empowering for them to see what life can look like after abuse, I speak with them about where I was, where I am and how I got here, the hardships and the triumphs. The practical impact is obvious: book bags, gifts, items, celebrations where the food is treat and they are pampered. However I think the biggest impact is that they know someone cares. We give them our time, we make the effort, we ask them what they need and how we can help, we listen.
TP: What warning signs (for domestic violence) should a woman look for?
AC: Respect and Trust are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship, if those are missing that is a red flag. How does your relationship make you feel about yourself? Our self worth has to come from within but if being with someone makes you feel bad about yourself that is a red flag. Does your boyfriend tell you what to wear or not to wear, who you can be friends with, what extracurricular activities you can participate in, how to spend your money-these are all some examples of controlling and isolating someone. Is he jealous and possessive, does he demand to check your phone, read your emails, show up somewhere when you asked him not to-these are forms of harassment and invasion of privacy. Does he scare you when he’s angry, throwing things, driving recklessly, threatens to break up with you if you break up with him, pressures you to be intimate with him-these are examples of intimidation and threatening behavior. Does he put you down privately, does he humiliate you in front of your family or friends or on social media-these are forms of humiliation. Does he think that his education, his job, his opinions are more important than yours, that he is the boss because he is the man, does he accept responsibility for his actions when he makes a mistake or is it always your fault-that is called male privilege. These are all flags of unhealthy relationships that may be or may become abusive.
TP: What would be your biggest piece of advice to a current victim of domestic violence?
AC: First of all, know that it is not your fault, ever! There is never an excuse for someone to physically, emotionally or psychologically abuse or mistreat you: not being drunk, not family issues, not school pressures, not stress, not anger. Talk to someone, study your options, form a safety plan, be careful (lethality is highest when you leave), find a way to walk away and don’t look back. There is life after abuse, take time to heal in every way and be the woman you are meant to be.