October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. The state of Georgia ranks 12th in the nation in incidents of domestic violence. Nationwide, the cost of intimate partner violence annually exceeds $5.8 billion, including $4.1 billion in direct health care expenses. Domestic violence has been estimated to cost employers in the U.S. up to $13 billion each year. The physical, emotional, spiritual and economic cost of domestic violence on families is incalculable. No one should have to go through any form of abuse, which is why it comes as no surprise to find that victims of domestic violence may decide to get in touch with a family law attorney in Jacksonville Florida, for example, to see what the best steps are to take in a situation like this. This isn’t a way to live and no one should have to go through this alone.
Alma G. Davis, a domestic violence survivor and awareness and prevention advocate, decided to do something about these daunting statistics. The Albany State University graduate started a foundation in her name to “educate, empower and celebrate survivors of domestic violence and help them achieve economic and self-sufficiency.” Through her foundation, participants are offered continuous, year-round programming providing them with opportunities to attain employment, develop maturity skills, financial security, and gain the necessary resources to transition to lives of independence. In addition to programming, Davis holds various events to raise awareness and funds to help in the fight against domestic violence.
Saturday, October 03, 2015 marked the foundation’s second annual “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” a unique 5K Run/1 Mile Walk which partners participants with survivors so the community can hear their personal stories.
Dr. Stephanie Evans, contributing writer to The Burton Wire, spoke with the Georgia native to find out her story and why the interventionist wants people to walk a mile in their shoes.
SE: Tell me about your interest in fighting domestic violence.
AGD: I grew up in an environment of domestic violence and was first subjected to abuse from a boyfriend at age 14-that was my first black eye. There were several violent incidents after that, including being beaten and having my head pounded into the concrete at 16, which had long-lasting health effects and may have contributed to a partial stroke I suffered in 2009. When I had my daughter at 23, I realized violence in the home should not be the norm and I was determined that my daughter would not go through what I went through.
SE: What are the goals for the foundation?
AGD: The foundation’s mission is to “Educate, Empower and Celebrate” survivors of domestic violence and help them achieve economic and self-sufficiency. Our long-term vision is to aid in the eradication of domestic violence globally and enlighten the public about its effects. I started in 2005 and began working in low income areas to emphasize the message, “You are not a product of your environment; you’re a product of your expectations.”
SE: When did you make this your life’s work?
AGD: In 2009 I asked myself, ‘What could someone have said to me when I was 14, that would have changed my life?” The answer came in a flash: seeing my beauty on the outside would help me connect to my beauty on the inside. That is when I contacted 26 women’s shelters and began Dinner for Divas. I gathered 150 girls and women, as young as 13. I didn’t have many resources at the beginning, but I had a vision, In 2015, we celebrated our 6th annual event. To prepare for the gala, we bring in hair, make– up, nails, massage, and fashion stylists to pay personal attention to survivors. The event is held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta. We have workshops for self-defense and there are many sponsors. When you’re beaten, you’re broken and you see the bruises. The gala is an opportunity for women to be pampered, to be cherished, and to be honored for the Divas they are.
SE: Tell me about your “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” initiative.
AGD: After several years of the gala, I began the “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” 5K run/1 mile walk. I was tired of “experts” not knowing some of the details of real women’s experiences. The run helps raise awareness and support prevention programs, but it is also an opportunity to have survivors share their stories. Those who walk instead of run are partnered with a survivor and hear firsthand the human impact of this social issue. People who participate learn that even if you are never hit, you can be impacted as a child survivor, a lover, a friend, or an employer-this issue touches everyone.
SE: What are some of the ways you help victims become survivors?
AGD: We work with corporate partners to teach life skills, and pre-employment skills like mastering the interview and developing an online profile, as well as provide bus fare, clothing and assist women with registering at temp agencies. We have had exciting progress including placing some of them in permanent positions. Survivors of domestic violence come from all economic and educational backgrounds. There are several survivors with master’s degrees who need assistance because escaping a violent relationship is a major setback in their lives. We also hold workshops at shelters like City of Refuge to aid with mental health, PTSD, crisis intervention, health screening, and employer education.
SE: What are the next steps for the Alma G. Davis Foundation?
AGD: The year 2014 was the 20th anniversary of the Violence against Women Act and there is growing awareness in areas like the military and the NFL, but more needs to be done. Nationally, I hope to host a national conference and walk in October 2016 in Washington, D.C. Internationally, I began with mission trips, including four in Ghana. This is a global issue that can be seen with acid pouring in India and struggles for women’s rights in places like Papua, New Guinea, which is highest in the world for domestic violence incidents due to a lack of economic means and other cultural factors.
SE: What is the main message you want to give readers to empower others to fight domestic violence?
AGD: First, if you are a survivor, if you are reading this, know that you are not alone! People are here for you. Second, to everyone else — stop turning a blind eye! There is no one face of domestic violence; it impacts everyone.
Ms. Davis holds a BS in Computer Science from Albany State University and MS in Management from Troy State University. She also received her certification as a Victims Advocate and Crisis Interventionist from the University of Georgia. For more information, visit http://www.almagdavisfoundation.org/
If you need help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1?800?799?7233/TTY 1?800?787?3224 or visit http://www.thehotline.org/
This article was written by Dr. Stephanie Evans, contributing writer to The Burton Wire with additional reporting from Dr. Nsenga K. Burton.
Dr. Evans is Professor and Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Africana Women’s Studies, and History (AWH) at Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Evans is the author of three books: Black Passports: Travel Memoirs as a Tool for Youth Empowerment (2014), Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History (2007) and a co-edited book, African Americans and Community Engagement in Higher Education (2009) and is currently co-editing an edited volume on Black Women’s Mental Health. Visit her at http://www.professorevans.net.