Because One Is Too Many event invites discussion about domestic violence

Meggie Zayas of Lombard estimates that she personally knows between 10 to 15 people who have disclosed to her that they have been victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

How anyone should respond to such disclosures will be part of the Because One Is Too Many awareness event Zayas and Jessie Dattalo of Wheaton will offer from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at Benedictine University's Scholl Hall, Room 101, 5700 College Road, Lisle.

The free event observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month is for anyone who wants to discuss or ask questions about the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We want to talk with people, not at them,” Zayas said. “Some people aren't ready to hear all of the gritty details yet, but still want to be involved and educate themselves about these problems. We also want to talk about aspects you don't hear about often, like male victims of assault.”

Figures about the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault vary, but Zayas said there is no getting around that there is far too much. An article recently published in the Daily Herald cited Justice Department figures showing that about 1,000 incidents a day of serious domestic violence — sexual or physical assault — occurred in 2013.

Zayas said the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence estimates that one in four women, and one in seven men, are victims of domestic violence and that one in 32 men has been raped.

“It's harder for men to come out because there is this idea that men cannot be raped,” she said.

Recent headlines about the National Football League and its handling of the video showing now-suspended Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his fiance unconscious and dragging her from an elevator have brought the issue of domestic violence to greater national consciousness.

Zayas said some of those calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline after the publicity about Rice said they did not realize before that they were being abused. Sexual assault also is a concern on college campuses, Zayas said.

“People don't even know what consent is,” she said. “They think it's OK to have intercourse with someone who is passed out.”

People also often do not know that 90 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, Dattalo said.

The event will cover that and other misconceptions about assault, how sexual violence often is treated lightly or as a joke in popular culture, rights of students who experience assault, male victims, what to do if a victim discloses to you and what people can do as a community to combat the problem.

Both Zayas and Dattalo speak from the perspective of young women who have voluntarily educated themselves about the issue. Dattalo, a social worker who is working to become a licensed therapist, worked with the organization PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She now works with women overcoming mental health problems. Nearly all of them have experienced sexual violence, Dattalo said.

But people with mental health issues aren't the only ones at risk for experiencing domestic violence, she said. The problem crosses all economic, social, racial, religious and sexual orientation lines, she said.

“Everyone knows somebody who's been touched by this issue,” Dattalo said. “It affects everyone.”

Zayas, a North Central College graduate who works for an insurance brokerage firm that agreed to sponsor the Oct. 11 event, volunteers at Mutual Ground domestic violence/sexual assault shelter in Aurora and at WAR Chest Boutique in Naperville.

The boutique sells items made by women who have been victims of or are at risk for human trafficking.

Zayas is a committed volunteer, said Ashley Pitariu, manager of WAR Chest Boutique.

“Meggie is one on the most passionate and driven young women I know. She is a dedicated volunteer for both Mutual Ground and WAR Chest Boutique, along with a few other nonprofits,” Pitariu said.

“She doesn't want anyone to experience the prevalent pain of abuse that many women and children experience — that is what drives her. With the statistics stating that one in five women are raped, it is essential to address the different aspects of the issue as a community, especially at the colleges.”

Deb Bacorn, volunteer services director at Mutual Ground, said Zayas has taken the time to educate herself about they dynamics of domestic violence.

“Meggie is a passionate person with a kind heart. She has participated in our 60-hour training class and understands the nature of domestic violence, and why it is so hard for the victims to leave,” she said.

Bacorn said Mutual Ground serves just less than 2,000 people a year, and 3 percent of them are men.

Both Mutual Ground and Family Shelter Services in Wheaton will have a part in the Because One Is Too Many event. After Zayas and Dattalo give a presentation and invite discussion, participants will be invited to go to WAR Chest Boutique in Naperville.

There they will have an opportunity to talk to representatives of the two shelters. Participants also will be able to speak with the Title 9 coordinator from Benedictine about student rights and will receive a list of shelters and hotlines available to help.

“It's open to everyone,” Dattalo said.

“Including men,” Zayas added.

To register, go to

  At the WAR Chest Boutique in Naperville, Jessie Dattalo of Wheaton, left, tries on a necklace made by a human trafficking victim in a safe house in the U.S. while Meggie Zayas of Lombard watches. Scott Sanders/
  Jessie Dattalo of Wheaton, left, and Meggie Zayas of Lombard are shown in the WAR Chest Boutique in Naperville. Everything in the store is made or sourced from victims of human trafficking or those at risk for human trafficking around the world. Scott Sanders/

If you go

What: Because One is Too Many domestic violence awareness event

When: 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11

Where: Scholl Hall, Room 101, Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Wheaton

Cost: Free


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