Sometimes life calls us to do things we never thought we would ever do, which is precisely what happened to the Founding President and CEO of The Women’s Advocacy Center, Romona Jackson. It was just a little over two years ago that Jackson was working as an attorney serving with a nonprofit that helped women obtain orders of protection. “A lot of these women didn’t know what to do once they got the order of protection, their questions usually were ‘Where am I going to live? How am I going to get work? How am I going to take care of my children?’ For a lot of them, just getting the necessities such as food, clothing, housing, and transportation were really a challenge. So, I started thinking about how I could help the women in this situation find the resources that they needed to begin to live safely and successfully in their communities,” recounts Jackson.
Noticing the number of women from the suburbs who were also seeking help and given the lack of social services outside of the city, Jackson’s heart was led to start The Women’s Advocacy Center to combat domestic violence in East Shelby County. Statistics show that women will leave an abusive relationship 7 times before they leave for good. According to Jackson, the moment women leave their abusers for the last time it is usually due to a crisis. “What we want to do is prevent them from getting to a place where something really traumatic happens” says Jackson. COVID-19 has increased the likelihood of that, unfortunately. The uptick in requests for emergency housing and financial assistance as women shelter in place with their abusers, proves that not everyone is safer at home. A combination of fewer hours, furloughs and lay-offs have caused a financial strain on women who are trying to leave an abusive relationship, particularly those with children. Tragically, this economic challenge can be the reason women go back to an abusive relationship. To combat this issue, The Women’s Advocacy Center, or “TWAC”, provides direct and indirect services to remove barriers that might keep women in a position where they cannot be independent.
Direct services provided by TWAC include 1) a donation center where women have free access to items for their babies, household, and personal care 2) a bi-weekly virtual support group where women can form community with others who are in or have been in a similar situation, 3) financial assistance, 4) emergency housing, 5) one-on-one mentoring, and 6) relocation assistance. In addition to these direct services Women’s Advocacy Center also provides indirect services such as referrals for family and individual counseling, financial management as well as legal advice and counsel.
To measure their success, TWAC tracks the number of women who have completed their program. They also measure how many of the women they have served who came out of abusive relationships returned to those relationships. Since they have been in operation, The Women’s Advocacy Center is able to report that none of the women they have served who left their abusers went back. To learn more about The Women’s Advocacy Center and you can help their efforts visit their website at www.womensadvocacycenter.org or give them a call at 901-896-9055.