TO THE NINES
Every nine seconds, a woman becomes the victim of domestic abuse. To help combat this sobering statistic, Jet Linx Washington D.C. sponsored the Eighth Annual Walk This Way Event, a fashion show put on to raise money and awareness for Becky’s Fund and the Men of Code program.
On December 9, 2016, Jet Linx Washington D.C. sponsored the Eighth Annual Walk This Way Event and the work of Becky’s Fund, a non-profit dedicated to driving out domestic violence. The event raised money for the Becky’s Fund “Men of Code” program – an effort dedicated to educating young male athletes about domestic violence and encouraging them to become leaders in the movement to end violence against women.
Becky’s Fund strives to tackle the issue of domestic violence through awareness, educational programs, and support for survivors. The organization was founded in 2006 by Becky Lee, a policy associate and attorney who has devoted her career to helping survivors and addressing the issue of domestic violence.
A longtime advocate against domestic violence, Lee was given the opportunity to further her work when she was cast to be a contestant on the hit CBS television show, Survivor: Cook Islands. Knowing that past reality shows had given contestants the chance to raise awareness for causes close to their hearts, Lee viewed Survivor as the perfect opportunity to address the issue through the media. Through her dedication and perseverance in the competition, she finished her Survivor tenure as second runner up – and with her prize money, she decided to start Becky’s Fund.
Lee started the organization to focus on prevention and education – an area she knew needed serious attention. “Before going on to the show, I was already working in the space of supporting victims. I had seen that there were areas lacking, specifically in the area of education,” explained Lee. “Prevention work is different and it has always been harder to measure, but still so important because the fact remains that there are always warning signs when someone is in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. I thought, why not start an organization where the niche was clearly there.”
One of the organization’s most successful programs is Men of Code, an effort dedicated to educating male high school and college athletes on domestic violence and how they can prevent violence against young girls and women. “It has been very enlightening for me to work with young men and boys, because for a long time we have categorized domestic violence as a women’s issue,” says Lee.
I WAS REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR’S THEME JUST BECAUSE IT EMBODIED THE WHOLE IDEA OF BEING ACTIVE AND CREATING SOME KIND OF CALL TO ACTION FOR OUR AUDIENCE.Becky Lee
Lee recognized that domestic violence prevention efforts, for the most part, revolved around telling women what they shouldn’t do in order to avoid being hurt or finding themselves in an abusive situation. “Our goal is to change the social stigma of what abuse is for these young men who have friends, who have family members, and who are leaders, so they are able to say that domestic violence is not right,” says Lee. “It is a crime, and we are really trying to change the that perspective. Instead of blaming the victim and telling them how to avoid the situation – actually create accountability for the crime.”
Men of Code aims to educate young men involved in sports that can evoke violence and unhealthy masculinity to be aware of behaviors associated with abuse. Players go through a six-week program with courses that teach them how to recognize dating violence or unhealthy relationships, how to offer support, and how to become leaders in the fight against violence.
Lee recalled a significant moment showing the success of the Men of Code program last year. A survivor who had been sexually assaulted at a local university came to share her story with a class of boys in the program, and after sharing her story, the boys were able to ask questions in a safe space. “Their questions were so raw, yet so important, and it showed the value of our program,” said Lee. She pointed out that for a long time most men felt uncomfortable speaking or asking questions about domestic violence. “This experience showed that the Men of Code program is helping to bring those walls down. It was very eye-opening, as well as very hopeful to see this next generation of these men coming forward, asking these questions, and wondering what they can do differently to support people going through these situations.”
During the next year, over 400 young men will participate in the Men of Code program. For the past eight years, the program has been funded by the organization’s annual fashion show event, Walk This Way. The show takes place in Washington D.C .and past shows have raised over $500,000, while bringing out a large crowd of well-known local figures.
Becky’s Fund strives to address domestic violence in all sectors of our community, establish prevention-based educational programs to counter domestic violence, and collaborate with others in the community to find ways to change the behavior and thinking behind issues that cause and perpetuate domestic violence.
MEN OF CODE
This program focuses on educating young male athletes on domestic and dating violence, while encouraging them to become allies in the movement to end violence against women and girls.
BECOMING YOUR OWN HEROINE
Partnering with the Girl Scouts and other youth organizations, this program educates today’s youth on topics such as dating violence, bullying, and self-defense.
EMERGENCY SERVICES AND SUPPORT
Available around the clock, this program assists with housing, child care, counseling, job placement and other means of support for survivors and their families.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COLLEGE TOUR
This tour brings educational resources to college campuses across the nation, teaching students the signs of domestic abuse and how they can help.
FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM
The program helps survivors become financially stable and independent through classes on budgeting, retirement and family planning.
The inspiration for Walk This Way came when a close friend of Lee’s suggested mixing fashion with charity work. Lee’s friend worked in the fashion industry creating custom made suits and one of his clients was former Washington Redskins player Clinton Portis. “The idea was that we could get Clinton to help host and then get a bunch of athletes to walk in the show to create buzz about this issue that is not often talked about in an open form,” said Lee. The concept also fit well in funding Men of Code program and the first show was held in 2009.
Over the years, Walk This Way has received growing support from different professional athletes and teams, as well as corporate sponsors. Many athletes return to the show every year including Redskins Chris Baker and Pierre Garcon, and D.C. United’s Bill Hamid. Every athlete who participates in the show brings energy and excitement to the audience, many with a signature dance or strut. “We are very grateful that they are really able to enjoy the event, but also mingle with the audience and address such an important issue that affects our community as a silent epidemic,” says Lee.
The aviation-related “Rise Up” runway theme for the 2016 event gave Jet Linx the perfect opportunity to give back and get involved with a organization that is actively tackling a serious issue. “I was really excited about this year’s theme just because it embodied the whole idea of being active and creating some kind of call to action for our audience. Asking them to rise up as a community and talk about this issue openly, as well as to help those survivors rise up, because the fact still remains that people are still shamed into silence,” said Lee. “We were so excited to be able to partner with Jet Linx to create a very strong theme throughout the event.”
The event was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, a beautiful venue in downtown D.C. off Constitution Avenue. “The runway was marked up like it was a runway for airplanes, with a huge airplane in the backdrop up on the stage with Jet Linx logo on the tail and moving propellers. It was really well done,” recalled Josh Rosenblatt, Jet Linx D.C. Base President. Jet Linx D.C. stepped up with a Gold sponsorship donation, a large presence at the VIP cocktail reception, and also took part in the silent auction through the donation of a Jet Card.
“Everything took place on that main stage. They had a number of speakers who spoke about surviving domestic violence and their experience, and how they deal with it every day. That was really emotional and touching,” said Rosenblatt. “A local football team came out in their uniforms, talking about why they participate in Men of Code and what it means to them. It wasn’t just looking at the fashion and the professional athletes strutting their stuff on stage. The show really put some perspective on the domestic violence, which I think was good because people need to understand the devastating effects of it.”
The Walk This Way event gave survivors a chance to step out and share their stories. Two women and a man spoke to the audience about their experience. Rosenblatt found it to be a memorable part of the show. “The testimonies from survivors which were very emotional and impactful. They spoke about their experience, what it was like to go through, and how Becky’s Fund made resources available to them.”
“It’s an important event with a great cause to get behind. Domestic violence is a silent epidemic. Supporting Becky’s Fund and Walk This Way is a great way for Jet Linx to give back to our community,” explained Rosenblatt.
Discover more about the organization on their website.