by Kristen Clonan
Domestic violence is an issue that impacts one in every four women nationwide. It is this statistic that shattered Cynthia VanMeter, 35, after first reading about it on social media through the Avon Foundation for Women's #SeeTheSigns of Domestic Violence Campaign.
"As a prior victim of domestic violence, I know that I can help mold a future free from violence for my daughter and her friends by sharing my mother's story," says VanMeter, a local baker who creates sweet treats for friends and loved ones in Pearl River. "During teen dating violence awareness month, we must share a positive message with our friends and families to raise awareness about violent relationships, because they are unacceptable. It is the silence of these issues in the Rockland community that continue to keep it hidden."
VanMeter's mother experienced domestic violence after Cynthia and her siblings were born. "Domestic violence plagued my early childhood, and I often have flashbacks of what my mother experienced. Nobody should have to experience the type of emotional and physical abuse that my close family had to endure."
VanMeter's mother was strong enough to leave her violent relationship and support herself with the help of close family and friends after several years.
"What many families do not realize is that children are also impacted by domestic violence. Sadly, more than 15 million children in the United States are affected each year," says VanMeter. "And they often go on to repeat the vicious cycle of abuse in their relationships. It's important to address the issues surrounding domestic violence and teen dating violence with our younger generation, and what better time to discuss the importance of healthy relationships than Valentine's Day?"
For this reason, VanMeter has set up her very own fundraising program with the Avon Foundation for Women. Through the online "DIY Fundraising Program" participant center, she set up her own website and campaign, helping her raise nearly $1,000 to benefit the Avon Foundation's Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Program.
Funds raised will benefit national and local organizations that provide direct services for domestic violence victims and their families, as well as educational programs for the public.
"I am grateful that the funds I raise will go right back into local communities. In Rockland alone, the Avon Foundation has supported Center for Family & Change, Legal Aid Society of Rockland County and VCS Inc. "More people should kick start their own bake sales and fundraisers. The future starts with us, and our children deserve better."
The best part? VanMeter's daughter, Haley, has become an advocate in her own community as well. She is extremely passionate about cause related fundraising, and has now taken in the issue of domestic violence now that her mother has talked to her about her grandmother's story.
"The Rockland community has been extremely supportive, and this fundraiser has brought on more awareness than I expected."
One day, she says, she will set up her own business, Heavenly Haley's Cakes. In the meantime, we can only lust after her tasty creations by visiting her Facebook page made for friends and family members.
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
- 15.5 million children live in households impacted by domestic violence
- Most domestic violence incidents are never reported