By: Kamilah Tom
WASHINGTON – Around the holiday season it is assumed that there is a spike in domestic violence due to things such as financial pressure and the stress of getting everything just right.
During the holidays victims may actually be less likely to reach out for help, according to data from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, (NDVH), the country’s confidential, 24/7 helpline.
A non-profit organization, Healing Broken Wings Inc., hosted a support group for the women of Ward 8 to shed light, specifically, upon domestic violence and mental health.
A small group of majority women, from the community, gathered together in October to have an engaging open discussion on the effects domestic violence has on one’s emotional health and their families. Healing Broken Wings, Inc. created a safe place for those in attendance to share their stories and have the hard conversations on topics that don’t often get talked about.
Oni Jones, a 35-year-old Washington DC native, is a survivor of domestic violence. “I came out tonight because I like to let people know my story my story now that I am not afraid to tell my story and what has happened, because there are other people that have the same things that are happening to them or know someone that it is happening to,” said Jones.
“It is important to have these discussions, because although domestic violence and mental health are two things that are well publicized for people, they aren’t really receiving the help,” Onari Jackson, the founder of Healing Broken Wings Inc., said.
Experts say that it is difficult to accurately measure trends in domestic violence, as abuse often takes place behind closed doors and is severely unreported. However, what can be measured, is whether victims reaching out for help, either by calling the police or other support services. According to NDVH, victims are less likely to reach out for help because victims may feel the societal pressure to keep things intact.
The forum hosted by Healing Broken Wings included a panel of eight local D.C. residents who also identified with being either the victim and/or the abuser and are now boldly having conversations across the District to bring healing, and be a resource for those who are currently being abused or survived being abused.
Afi Gaston, CEO and Founder of Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags (DVWMT), was one of the eight panelists who was passionate about and committed to breaking domestic violence.
“I believe that if we are going to break domestic violence we need victims and abusers to feel not scared about this conversation,” said Gaston.
It is not common to marry the two topics, domestic violence and mental health, and have one discussion, so Jackson saw fit to do just that. “Even though this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I decided to put domestic violence and mental health together in one forum, because people need those resources, not just one, but both,” Jackson said.
Though the topic of domestic violence was widely discussed, there were attendees who brought the side of mental health into the conversation like Veteran Jawanna Hardy. “I was diagnosed with severe PTSD. So, I came out to see if there was any help I can get for my daughter, who is 13-years-old, and sees me go through this every day,” said Hardy. “I received a lot of information and I was provided with a lot of resources, and places that I can go to get help.”
The moderator asserted that everyone on the panel was a resource and encouraged those in attendance to make sure they their information.
For closing remarks, Onari Jackson gave advice saying, “Seek help. Use your resources and not your friends.”