“It is important to understand: Domestic violence does not discriminate,” Missy Boneske, executive director of Operation Pretty Things, tells me on October 1—the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “It is not isolated to a certain demographic. It affects [people] from all ages, races, religious affiliations, educational backgrounds and socio-economic statuses. It is an epidemic that touches as many as one in three women nationwide … and New Hanover County is no exception.”
Operation Pretty Things (OPT) is a year-round service program that collaborates with community partners and other nonprofits housed at The Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington. The organizations help others find housing and employment, or offer resources for emotional stability and personal empowerment.
“OPT comes alongside domestic violence shelters, providing them with the tools and services needed to help aid in the rehabilitation process of the women in their care,” Boneske details. “The ‘tools’ we provide help prepare women for job interviews, court obligations and overall emotional wellness.”
What started as a small Christmas outreach project in 2007 now creates opportunities for women in the community to assemble special gifts distributed to domestic violence shelters throughout the year. Monies raised help purchase supplemental products not collected during drives, distribute gifts throughout NHC, and provide services shelters don’t have funding for or cannot provide.
“We are an invaluable on-call resource to the shelters we serve,” Boneske says. “All financial support is needed to keep the doors open and this mission alive!”
In addition to OPT’s second annual Pretty Things ONE Gala, slated for Fri., Oct. 6 at the Coastline Convention Center, OPT is spending this month raising awareness via their Pretty Things Drive on Oct. 16 and Black Box Initiative. For six weeks, businesses become drop-box locations for people to bring cosmetic and beauty essential donations.
“The donations will be used in the gifts we assemble at our annual Christmas event,” Boneske adds. “Our gifts contain special items that remind a woman of her worth, frame her beauty, as well as a handwritten love note from the women that assembled the gift.”
While last year was Boneske’s first attempt at hosting a black-tie gala for Operation Pretty Things, she has been with OPT for more than 10 years. At the very least it was a successful introduction to the community at large. With an issue like domestic violence, wherein social stigma, fear and shame continue to silence many, awareness is key to action.
“The tragic reality is domestic violence is the silent killer that occurs behind closed doors, leaving its victims isolated and alone,” Boneske explains. “Fear plays a debilitating role. An abuser may say, ‘If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you.’’ Or worse, ‘I will hurt your family and children.’ These are all too common threats that leave women living secret lives of pain and hopelessness.”
Moreover, domestic violence is an issue so cyclical, for some it seems almost hopeless to combat or even talk about. Unlike diseases of the body, there is no prescribed medicine for domestic abuse.
“Abusive behavior is learned,” she continues. “Approximately 95 percent of abusers were abused as children or witnessed some form of abuse. Because of this, the cycle of abuse prevails. But there is hope. I may not be able to cure domestic violence, but I—we—can offer a glimpse of hope. Where there is hope, there is a future, and the possibilities are endless.”
Sponsored by A Thyme Savor, Perry’s Emporium, Remodeling by Erik, LeeAnne Quattrucci Attorney at Law, and Abba First Mortgage—with cocktail hour, food and music—the gala will host a special presentation of “There is Always HOPE,” a mini-documentary by Bee Young of Happy 8 Photography.
“It will feature a few brave women who are ready to speak out about their own experience with abuse, as well as educate the general public about what abuse really is—[and] it is not what you think,” Boneske says. “This short film is not easy to watch. But it doesn’t stay that way. Healing is possible. Hope is real. And these women are living proof of that.”
While this year’s gala is sold out, there are several ways to support OPT and their “Be the ONE” theme year round:
Be aware. One in three women are victims of abuse—a neighbor, coworker, or even family member could be the statistic.
Be available. No one should have to go it alone. Listen and help whenever possible.
Be a giver. Though not everyone has the time to give, they may have means to give to organizations like OPT.
“We live in a heads-down, keep-moving, work-for-the-weekend world,” Boneske observes. “Yet we are surrounded by people who are trapped in a seemingly endless hell with no one to help them. The call to all individuals is to ‘be the one.’”
Business owners who would like to participate in the Black Box Initiative during OPT’s annual Pretty Things Drive should email Missy Boneske at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month October 2017 Events
Pretty Things ONE Gala
Friday, October 6
Coastline Convention Center
501 Nutt St.
Take Back the Night March and Rally
Thursday, Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Riverfront Park • 5 N. Water St.
(by the Alton Lennon Federal Building)
See Facebook event page
Pretty Things Drive
See Facebook for details
United We Ride Against Domestic Violence & Child Abuse
Saturday, Oct. 21, 9 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Carolina Coast Harley-Davidson
6620 Market St.
$20 per rider; $10 per passenger
See Facebook event page