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I was a young girl, somewhere between the ages of 14-16 when I saw, up close and in person, the ugly cruelty of domestic violence… but I didn’t know then it had an official name. I went to the hospital with my mom to check on her sister/my aunt who had been attacked by her boyfriend. The extent to which she had been beaten shocked me such that, the image is now a core memory embedded in my brain forever. My aunt’s eyes were severely swollen, her head was bandaged, arm in a cast, and her mouth had to be wired shut due to the damage to her jawbone. Still today, over 40 years later, what I saw that day brings tears to my eyes. I believe in my heart, that’s where my mission began. That’s when my innate compassion to help other women, especially those who were hurting, was revealed to me.
In 1980/81, when I was a sophomore in college, I, along with two of my friends, witnessed our friend being beaten by her ex-boyfriend. Two of us attempted to tear him away from her to no immediate avail, for his strength was greater than the two of us combined. The other friend was trying to call the police and was threatened to hang up the phone, and she did. The attacker finally left, but what he had done was still very present in that off-campus apartment. I still didn’t know that this type of behavior had an official name, and if anything other than calling the police was an option. So, I made a plan of action for us to protect our beaten and battered friend as best we could. I didn’t have a roommate in my dorm room at that time, so I had her move in with me, and we all took turns for several weeks walking her to her classes, the cafeteria, work, etc. I didn’t know our actions had an official name…a safety plan. We were just doing what we thought was best to protect her from being beaten again; we were just wanting to save her life.
When I think now about the image of my aunt and that college sophomore experience, I’m not at all surprised that I have been on the board of directors, and now on staff for Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) as the coordinator of Our Community Matters. For each place I have been employed up to the present, DCFOF has been the agency to which our collective donations and volunteer support were given.
When I think now about those images, I know that each has had an impact on the work that I have done and am still doing, both professionally and personally. My mom lovingly shares stories of the times I have been an advocate, ally, and a voice for people, specifically women, in need. My mom often says that my “ministry” is caring for women and children.
It is very rewarding for me to be a part of the Prevention, Education, & Awareness Program for Denton County Friends of the Family. As the coordinator of Our Community Matters, I get to focus on engaging the African American community and bring increased awareness to the resources available for victims of domestic violence. Statistically, African American women are 35% more likely to experience domestic violence than women of other races.
I have formed a volunteer group of African American females, Sister to Sister: Our Community Matters. The group’s primary purpose is to help increase the awareness about domestic violence in the African American community. This is accomplished through presentations at area churches, conferences, sorority meetings, cultural celebrations, etc.
Our Community Matters hosted its first Black History Month program event on February 1, 2018, titled, “An Evening of Raised Awareness with Dr. Yamma Brown”. Dr. Brown shared excerpts from her book, Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me, that reveals the experiences she had growing up and witnessing her father abusing her mother, and other women with whom he had an intimate relationship. Subsequently, Dr. Brown became a primary victim of domestic violence at the hands of her first husband. Her story touched the over 150 people in attendance which resulted in not only raising awareness to the realities of domestic violence, but also encouraged people to donate and volunteer.
It's my calling in life to work toward educating people about domestic violence. It is without hesitation that I embrace our agency purpose: We provide compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention.
When extending an invitation to people to give to Denton County Friends of the Family, I often state the following, “I’m not asking for ALL of your time, just enough time to help us save a life. I’m not asking you for ALL your life savings, I’m just asking you to help save a life”, Cassandra Berry.
To everyone who stands with us against domestic violence and sexual assault, for every survivor empowered to share #herstory…THANK YOU!! I CELEBRATE YOU.