Mimi Sylte on Runway to Freedom, fashion show benefiting domestic violence survivors

Lauren Grinnell (left)

I had the honor of sitting down with Lauren Grinnell to discuss her Seattle fashion show, Runway to Freedom. Grinnell created Runway to Freedom four years ago; it’s a fashion show showcasing local designers and a live auction, with proceeds going toward New Beginnings, a domestic violence shelter and help-network for women and their children. New Beginnings offers shelter, job training, social workers, and daycare to these women and children.

Lauren Grinnell has always been into fashion. However, she wasn’t as interested in creating clothes, as the styling of hair and makeup. After her first year of interning after hair school, Grinnell was introduced to New Beginnings at a salon called Red. The salon did haircuts for women and children that were in the New Beginnings shelter. After visiting New Beginnings she thought, “It’d be cool to have a fashion show, style the hair, and then raise money for a good cause.”’

What inspired you to start Runway to Freedom?

“After cutting hair for New Beginnings, I realized that they were in the same situation that I was in. I was in an abusive relationship and didn’t realize it. So after I did the volunteer work I realized that this is affecting me too. What a great organization to have for people to use as an outlet. Doing the haircuts for the women and children inspired to me to start Runway to Freedom.

I had some support. I was lucky to have some support like family and close friends.”

Why is this subject important to you?

“The subject of domestic violence is really important to me not only because I was affected by it, (and am a survivor of it, on a smaller scale) but they say the statistic is one in three, but really its everybody who is affected by domestic violence. If you have never had an encounter with domestic violence in your life, it would be amazing to say that. But say you were walking down the street and you see a couple arguing with each other, and that in itself is traumatic, but then you turn on the news and you hear about this guy burning his house down, and hurting his children, and then you look into it, its because the man and the woman were fighting. The guy was violent. Or a same sex couple were fighting, it got violent, one killed the other and then himself, it’s usually domestic violence. Within drug and gang violence, a lot of the time there is domestic violence. It’s so important because it affects so many people”

What is the long term goal for Runway to Freedom?

“The law has changed a little bit, but our long term goal with Runway to Freedom is to have the law be changed for abuser and victims. And the reason I say abuser is because if you have been shown your whole life that this is how a healthy relationship is, this is normal. And, well then you just go about life like ‘this is how I do things; this is how I treat other people’. You need the education. Once you have one charge, stalking, or hurting another person, it should be taken very seriously, and that person should be put into an intense program. They need to be taught that this is not okay, and shown what is okay, what is healthy. You know, nip that in the bud at an early age.

“Also, we need education for the young people, starting in middle school, show them examples, have workshops for them, and show them what a healthy relationship means. There’s so much funding cut from education, we don’t learn those things.

“And with victims of domestic violence, they should be protected way more because when you file a restraining order against someone you need to go to court and prove it to them.

            “Imagine a woman comes here from Poland, or wherever, and met a guy, and they get married. They don’t have anybody. Or a man for that matter, he’s being abused by a woman, and it’s quote unquote, ‘embarrassing’, as a guy, to show weakness like that.

            “If you have nothing and you go to court, and your abuser is right there, sitting there, it would be so much scarier. Like you think, ‘Is he going to be there?’

“The law needs to change for abusers and the victims. Violence happens and we can make money for shelters and have a really cool event, but we want to try to solve the problem as much as we can. I think that getting into the legal system and writing a petition is a good idea. This year at the show attendees can sign a form for the petition, and they can be a part of it.

“That’s really the point of it. [Victims] don’t need to stay really hateful people forever. Everyone has some rehabilitation to do on some level in life.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To learn more about domestic violence, visit http://www.domesticviolence.org/.

If you know you are in a violent relationship, visit http://www.thehotline.org/.

Here’s another link to the Recovery Village’s online resources for survivors of domestic violence and for those figuring out how to handle their situation.