Friday, February 24, 2012
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — Leave it to the students in the fashion department at Marist College to make beauty a focal point at an event that shines the light on something as ugly as domestic violence.
One student, in particular, deserves most of the credit for tonight’s event at the Bull and Buddha restaurant in Poughkeepsie that will include a salon-styled fashion show of student-made garments.
All the money raised will go to the Grace Smith House, a Poughkeepsie-based agency that provides shelter and emergency help for battered women and their children.
Danielle Dezao, a senior who is serving as the communications director for this year’s Silver Needle Fashion Show, was once a victim like those the Grace Smith House serves.
Though Dezao wasn’t physically abused by her boyfriend when she was a freshman at the college, she said it was getting to that point.
“It was emotional. It was control. It was someone telling me what not to wear and how to act and think,” said Dezao, the organizer of tonight’s benefit that will launch the college’s Creative Arts Council.
Called “Creating Courage,” the event at the Bull and Buddha at 319 Main St. is intended to cast the spotlight on domestic violence.
It will showcase the Marist College dance ensemble, poetry readings and a small-scale fashion show featuring professional models from New York City.
Dezao said garments from the senior designers’ deconstruction and surface manipulation projects inspire change, empowerment and strength.
“It’s really about a lot of texture and great prints and fabrics, and it’s really cool because there’s a lot in the detail,” said Dezao.
Judy Lombardi, the director of outreach and support services at the Grace Smith House, believes something as elegant as a fashion show to raise money for those impacted by a crime as brutal as domestic violence works.
“Beauty is often used to hide the ugliness beneath domestic violence like women who try to hide their scars and bruises with makeup. They’re not as dissimilar as one would think,” Lombardi said.
She said this is not the first time a group has come forward with an idea like this.
“We once had an event with Town Shop Bridal (in Poughkeepsie), which donated half of the proceeds of their sales of formal wear to domestic violence victims,” she said.
“The statistics are so alarming because a lot of people heading down the aisle are going to find themselves in domestic violence situations.”
Dezao was moving in that direction.
She hooked up with a controlling man early in her college career and felt trapped.
For her, it was more emotional than physical abuse, but it was painful all the same.
“We’ve all been trained to think it’s not abuse until he hits you, but all the signs of jealousy and control were there,” she said.
Though Dezao was brave enough to break away from her abuser by her sophomore year, she recognizes that some women haven’t found the strength to make that move, and her experience served as a wakeup call.
She began researching abusive relationships and found that one in three teenagers is a victim.
So she started the campus-based “h<3rt1,” (pronounced “heart one”), a nonprofit group created to “heal a heart and remove the ‘1.’”
“I had no intentions of ever starting an organization, but it kind of snowballed,” said Dezao, who is from Bergen County in New Jersey.
“It’s great how people really do get involved when you have something to say. A lot of people would look at me and say, ‘You were in an abusive relationship?’
“But it doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “If it’s not you, it’s someone you know.”
Lombardi applauds all that Dezao and the Marist community have done to help the victims of domestic violence.
“There’s still a tremendous amount of shame about domestic violence that the victim holds,” she said.
“That’s partly what the batterer does to the victim—scaring and shaming the victim into keeping secrets. For pure survival, the victims often feel that they need to keep silent.”
That’s why even a glamorous event like this can bring awareness, Lombardi said.
“And with events like this, we’re reaching out to a different audience. With Danielle’s connection to the college community, it’s a younger crowd, and that is incredibly valuable,” she said.
Tickets for the Creating Courage arts event at 7 p.m. are $30 for the general public and $20 for students, who must present their college ID.
For more information, contact the Marist College fashion department at (845) 575-3124 or via email at FashionAtMarist@gmail.com or visit the events page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/events/344562352238550