In 2014, I began partnering with the Marion County Domestic Violence Task Force as a means to process my personal experience with domestic violence. Inspired by the work I was contributing to, I created a social impact initiative, Victory over Domestic Violence. I wanted to contribute to something bigger than myself. I wanted to share my story in hopes that it might inspire others to become involved in domestic violence advocacy. Creating Victory over Domestic Violence has allowed me to develop connections and partnerships and increase awareness and resources beyond Marion County and throughout the state of Alabama and the United States.
Victory over Domestic Violence strives for individuals living in the darkest hours of life to know and see by example that there is more to life than abuse. My mission is to bring awareness to the violence, but also to the success stories of those who have overcome the violence. Victory over Domestic Violence focuses on advocating for survivor-centered policies, empowering victims of abuse, and educating the public.
I began Victory over Domestic Violence seven years ago by developing an advocacy plan to increase reach and exposure. Drawing from my experiences with domestic violence, I cultivated VoDV with key phases in mind: Federal, State, and Local Legislative Advocacy, DV Awareness Partnerships, Campus-Centered Initiatives, Supply Drive Partnerships, Online Presence and Digital Advocacy, and Fundraisers. I recognized the importance of bringing attention to domestic violence shelters and organizations and their services because my family knew little about these life-saving resources. Each phase prioritizes partnerships with local and state governments, lawmakers, civic organizations, businesses, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools and campuses, through a community-centered approach. This is to build networks of DV prevention, education, and awareness that ties in communities.
As an advocate, I work with domestic violence shelters, organizations, and legislators, to promote anti-domestic violence programs and laws. I have worked on the federal level, communicating with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Gender Policy Council. I submitted input to the Council, which eventually become a part of the first-ever National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. This plan was released by the White House in May, and I was invited to virtually attend the launch meeting.
I have written legislation that proposes amendments to the Alabama Codes of Cosmetology and Barbering to require free anti-domestic violence training for professionals in the industry. Victims of abuse often confide in those they feel close with, and the relationships between hairstylists and their clients can provide an opportunity for support and safety for survivors. This legislation will be introduced to the Alabama House of Representatives in the upcoming 2024 session. My goal for this bill is that training would equip individuals with knowledge and resources to recognize the signs of domestic violence, guidance on how to successfully navigate conversations with clients who may be in danger, and tools and resources that can help clients get to safety. If this law was proposed and passed, Alabama would join four other states in anti-domestic violence legislation and training for cosmetologists and barbers.
I also partner with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence to meet with legislators to discuss specific laws and their impact on survivors of abuse. I have cold-called, written letters, and sent emails to lawmakers discussing legislation, such as the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA).
I have received proclamations from the governors of Alabama and Florida recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Governor Kay Ivey recognized Victory over Domestic Violence and proclaimed October 1, 2023 as VoDV Day statewide. I also partner with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence to meet with legislators to discuss specific laws, such as the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA), and their impact on survivors of abuse.
Victory over Domestic Violence focuses on prioritizing victims’ needs and empowering survivors. Victims of abuse often have to flee their relationships with little to no resources; therefore, I launched the VoDV resource bag project to provide tangible supplies for survivors. This initiative raises funds to purchase bags containing personal care items and collaborates with community stakeholders to house them at pick-up locations.
I have partnered with every college campus and the Alabama Community College System to implement these bags on all 37 four-year institutions and 25 community college campuses. There are currently 87 pick-up locations across Alabama.
I promote community investment, increase social media involvement, and broadcast shelter and VoDV needs through my social media series, #WishlistWednesday. This weekly campaign highlights product needs for the resource bags, reiterates the purpose of the bags, and broadcasts the many ways for donations. Revenue for this project more than doubled after the launch of Wishlist Wednesday. I offer multiple and flexible donation/support options through an Amazon wishlist, Venmo payments, and donations through my website.
Moreover, I am a translator in Safeplace Inc.’s “Strive to Thrive” book club, and through this avenue, I developed a six-week ESL course, “Driving to Independence,” designed to help Spanish-speaking survivors overcome language barriers and navigate the DMV. I also facilitate supply drives with businesses, outreach groups, and school systems to help stock shelters and transition homes.
I focus on partnering with communities to host supply drives of paper products, such as paper towels, paper plates, napkins, and toilet paper, to help keep shelters and transitional houses stocked for residents. These partners and I collect toys, coloring books, crayons, and puzzles for shelters, as well. Additionally, I work with businesses and organizations to host or support fundraisers for shelters and services or give monetary donations. I often utilize social media to organize digital fundraisers. This not only expands the online presence of Victory over Domestic Violence but allows increases the accessibility of fundraising. Supply Drive Partners and fundraising offer other tangible opportunities for people to become involved in domestic violence advocacy.
A key component of my initiative is education, and I implement this focus by speaking to a wide range of audiences. I have spoken to thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students, along with youth groups, church congregations, service organizations, and businesses.
I have written a children’s book, Puff’s Purpose, which is narrated from the point of view of my character Puff, and details a child’s POV in an unhealthy home. Characters include Breezy who is often caught in the storm of Bluster, another character. Puff and Breezy’s story mirrors many children’s stories. It mirrors my own. I wrote Puff’s Purpose because there is a gap in children’s literature detailing unhealthy homes and family violence.
My goals include increasing the visibility of VoDV across state lines. I have worked with MAO delegates, organizations, and other survivors across the country to bring more attention to domestic violence through public Zoom meetings, digital seminars, and Instagram live sessions that often average over 300-500 views.
I have been a guest on multiple national podcasts, including the Mark White show, which airs to over 350,000 listeners in over 90 cities across the country, and I am a Survivor podcast, which has a global audience. I have been a guest on Talk of Alabama and reached over 8 million viewers through these nationally syndicated venues. Using social media, I create educational content and challenge users to participate in digital fundraisers and awareness tasks, such as posting facts about DV. Furthermore, my website, victoryoverdomesticviolence.org includes in-depth information on DV, shelters, and hotlines.
A key component of VoDV education is equipping young children with skills to practice discussing their emotions. For example, telling someone when their feelings are hurt or they are sad. Emotional literacy is vital for children to develop healthy relationships with their peers. I have created interactive lessons that allow children to respond to scenarios that elicit emotional responses, identify a list of words they associate with the situation, and acknowledge that there are no right or wrong feelings because feelings are informed by individual perceptions. Students choose words they want to explore more in-depth and add to their emotional vocabulary. We then facilitate a class discussion to share highlights from our word/emotion lists. My lesson plan teaches children how to recognize their emotions and have productive conversations about them.
For middle, high school, and college students, I have created additional curriculum that incorporates improv acting scenes of healthy relationships, interactive discussion boards for red and green flags in relationships, and creative writing, painting, and drawing exercises. This includes participating in the Clothesline Project, an initiative where individuals paint T-shirts with anti-DV messages. These shirts are then displayed in community locations as art installations. I have completed this project in primary and secondary schools, churches, and on college campuses over 15 times since VoDV’s inception. Each time participants walk away doing prevention and education work with a tangible product, a T-shirt.
Another key component is increasing awareness and education about shelter resources through DV Awareness Partnerships in both communities and campuses. My advocacy plan for awareness partnerships centers on teaming with civic organizations, media outlets, and public events, such as festivals, and school and college systems to promote DV shelters, resources, and education. These partners increase exposure to Victory over Domestic Violence and awareness of domestic violence advocacy. Awareness partners are able to increase VoDV's interaction with the public. By utilizing partners and implementing opportunities that expand knowledge and resources of service outlets, the public, which includes victims, can become more aware and more likely to access these services.
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