BECOMING THEIR VOICE SHOE CHALLENGE

The Becoming Their Voice Shoe Challenge is an awareness challenge created by survivor and advocate Andrea L. Thompson, it is in its 3rd year and growing leaps and bounds as a movement to enlist the communities help to end domestic violence.

Andrea created this challenge out of desperation to raise awareness in a way that would leave a lasting impression on the community and create long lasting change. She believes that Domestic Violence cannot and will not end until we bridge the gap between the community and victims with education and awareness. You simply cannot end something you are not aware of, and even once aware of it you cannot do something about it if you do not know what to do, so we as human beings do what we do best we do nothing instead. With the shoe challenge Andrea created it takes the harsh reality of what most don’t see that happens behind closed doors and makes it quite visible through a pair of shoes, Andrea hopes that as this movement grows that she will have many people participating and that the community will wake up and their hearts and minds will soften pertaining to this issue, causing a desire to help. Then as we push them towards education and the knowledge that this crime cannot end without us we can make sure that there are no more missed opportunities to save a victim because we simply “did not know”

This challenge in the simplest of ways really unites those who have experienced domestic violence with those that can help to change it in a way that is truly impactful on all sides.

 
“Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”
– Galatians 6:2

Domestic Violence Information

Below is the information you’ll need to educate the community during the challenge.

A lot of Domestic Violence goes unnoticed because majority of people do not know what the signs of domestic violence are or how to recognize them.  The hardest part about recognizing signs is you have to be ACTIVELY looking for them and really paying attention to detail especially for those you are closest to, I encourage you to memorize some of these things to share with people during this challenge, make some copies of this list and hand it out to those you come into contact with, share some of these things on your social media pages and with those that you know and love. There are many ways to spread the awareness.

  • Frequent injuries that they explain as “implausible” accidents
  • Attempts to cover up bruises or injuries with make up, dark glasses or inappropriate clothing such as long sleeves in the summer
  • Frequently having to check in by phone with their partner (in an unhealthy manner)
  • Frequent unexpected absences from school, work or social activities (especially when the absences correlate with a new relationship)
  • Frequently referring to how angry their partner is about inconsequential things
  • Extreme fear of conflict or disagreement
  • Does not have money of his or her own
  • Becoming withdrawn or distracted, unable to concentrate
  • Jumping or flinching excessively at unexpected noises or gestures
  • Increasing isolation
  • Depression & uncontrollable crying or any sever change in behavior or emotion
  • Avoiding conversations or interactions with the opposite sex
  • Sudden and extreme changes in personality or behavior

Again these are just a few of the signs please take the initiative to go a little deeper and look some things up yourself or take one of my No More Missed Opportunities workshop.

Remember to SHARE, SHARE, SHARE you are going to be loaded with a wealth of information to use during the entire month of October make sure to use it!

One of the other things you will want to do is know some of the resources, here is a list of the ones in Davidson County. I want to stress something though that is another thing that is great to share with others, you have to be careful when handing out resources to a victim or survivor without actually knowing what the resource entails. I will give you an example of what I mean:

If I am a victim and I come to you for help, and naturally you hand me a number for a resource and that is it in my mind as the victim it is quite possible for me to think this phone number you gave me is going to be my saving grace because who wouldn’t think that it works like that, you call a “domestic violence shelter” say I am going through domestic violence and you are in! Unfortunately that is barely ever the case it is quite a long intake process, they are all different and you are never guaranteed to get in, so you do not want to give the victim false hope.

Here are a couple of things to know about a shelter and resources and what to do with a victim when giving them out:

  • The call to a shelter can be daunting, majority of the time a victim has experienced abuse within 24 or 48 hours of when they place this call so they cannot possibly understand why they have to go through a “process” over the phone in order to even find out if there is space or if they can get in. If you can sit with them during this call for support I advise that you do and pre warn them the process can take up to 20 minutes and most of the time shelters are full.
  • There can be long waiting lists for a lot of resources
  • Every resource is different for its requirements and so is their processes so you could spend hours on the phone calling places back to back with each one having a different conversation which can be overwhelming for a victim
  • Hotlines although they serve a great purpose and the people on the other line are trained very well it can feel like a cold process to the victim just because they do not know the person on the other line so again if you can sit with them or be a part of the conversation please do
  • Even if a victim gets into shelter the longest program in Nashville is 60 days which is not much time to get your life together and the victim more than likely has not even processed what they have been through but if you happen to be sitting with them when they make the call and they get in I would then pre warn them community living can be tough but they have to stay focused on the goal because if they get to the end of that 60 days with nowhere to go they are more than likely going back to their abuser and the abuse at this point is worse!

I would encourage you in your spare time to just familiarize yourself with a few of the major resources and maybe program some numbers for some in your phone to be able to give out at a moments notice.

Shelters:

Morning Star Sanctuary:

 615-860-0003

Madison, TN

60 day program

YWCA:

615-242-1199

Nashville, TN

45 day program

Safe Haven: (homeless)

615-256-8195

Nashville, TN

You must have children. Referral through metro social services, then placed on a list. There are interviews and background checks done with the entire family. The process can take up to a year.

Bridges Domestic Violence Center:

615-599-5777

Franklin, TN

Case by Case basis program, if victim lives within Williamson county they will find them a resource if they are full, if victim is coming from out of state or from another county they will refer them to resources within that county. (Most victims not living in that county cannot go there because of transportation issues)

The Mission: (Homeless)

Nashville, TN

615-312-1574

Proof of identification can get you in on the spot. 10 minute information intake.  There is no official exit date but they try to resource out to a program within 90 days.

24 hours a day. Teenage sons have to be enrolled in school or under 18.  Dorm style living.

Other Resources:

Jean Crowe Advocacy Center:

 Nashville, TN

615-862-4767

Provides Court Advocacy

Family Justice Center:

Nashville, TN

Serves victims of family violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking

Aspire app for victims (download this to a victims phone, it appears to be a regular news app but the help section helps them to recognize signs and safety plan)

 National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-700-7233

Domestic Violence Division

 615-880-3000

Provides counseling services, court assistance

Choices (Domestic Violence Support Group)

 Meets from 9-10:30 am every Friday

812 2nd Avenue South, they provide childcare

Martha O Bryan Center

615-254-1791

Nashville, TN

Provides counseling, family engagement programs, and education programs they also work with second harvest foodbank for food.

Graceworks Ministries

 http://graceworksministries.net

Websites:

www.domesticshelters.org  will provide shelters across the United States

www.tncoalition.org

Here are some statistics that you can share with other people during the challenge:

  • Tennessee has been ranked in the top 10 list in the nation for over a decade for Over 50% of women homicides in Tennessee are a result of Domestic Violence
  • Domestic Violence is one of the most under reported crimes in America so the overwhelming statistics may be worse than they appear because they are not accurate
  • Domestic Violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness in America (this is a good one to remember for those that want to judge a victim for not leaving)
  • Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States
  • On average nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner which equates to 10 million a year
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men are victims of domestic violence

These are just a few statistics I do not want to overwhelm you but feel free to look up some of your own if you would like, I want to warn you because this is an awareness challenge for women supporting women you may run into some people who want to know why we are not speaking up about men or why are men not involved in the challenge.

You are more than welcome to speak up about men as well but you can let that person know that the person who created the challenge is a female survivor and speaks, teaches and raises awareness for female victims and the vision god gave her was women supporting women. But we are by no means denying the fact that men are victims too.

There are 3 phases to the cycle:

  1. Tension Building Phase: This phase is where the more subtle behaviors take place like some of the examples we discussed in “emotional/verbal abuse”. During this phase the abuser is creating a chaotic environment causing the victim to walk on eggshells doing anything to avoid setting them off or causing any sort of confrontation.
  2. The Explosion Phase: This is where physical violence presents itself, again because in phase one the victim has been conditioned to be submissive and apologetic for something that is not their fault to begin with they tend to blame themselves for the physical violence that occurs in this phase. Feelings of Shame and Fear rear their ugly heads for the victim in this phase.
  3. Honeymoon Phase: Can you guess what this phase entails? You got it …the abuser is now apologetic they have turned back into the person that the victim fell in love with, more than likely buying gifts and pulling out all the stops. If this is the first cycle in the relationship the victim is often told that it was a one time thing and it will never happen again, because the victim is unaware of the cycle of violence they believe this to be true. The thing to remember about this phase is that it can last for a very long time. For some it may be a couple of weeks for others it could be a couple of years, the longer run this phase has the more immobilized the victim will be when it happens again!

What keeps them in the cycle?

  • Love
  • Fear
  • Hope

Some people want to know what to I do if they get the chance to have a conversation with a victim.  There is always 2 main things you want to “try” to do and I emphasize try because not every victim, situation or conversation will be the same. If they are open to hearing it you want to 1st try to help them minimize the abuse while they are still in it and 2nd help them to plan and prepare for an escape “if” and “when” they are “ready” or “able” to leave. This way you are not forcing anything on them just helping them to prepare for the “just in case” because preparation can save their life!

I have attached a list of Safety Planning Tips, please look over these and study them, it may be impossible to memorize the whole list however there are some many ones that I have highlighted that are always good to use in any circumstance. This is another thing you can share with the public if the conversation goes there or spread online and across your social media, you would not believe that the majority of the public does not even know safety planning exists, so you are playing a vital role in helping them to know these things. If you need to carry the list in your purse please do you are more than welcome to read directly from it or again print out some copies and hand them out or post them at work as just a couple of ideas.

And I would encourage you to come to one of my classes or have me come to you and a group of people to teach all these things in depth all of the information you have been given could save someone and its really simple but vital things!

If you run into any questions do not hesitate to ask as the challenge goes on, I want you to become comfortable discussing this information.

Andrea-SafetyPlan1 Andrea-SafetyPlan2

Important Instructions

During the months of August and September you will be given a few dates, times and locations to choose from to pick up your shoes, please do your best to make it to one of these and to make it on time.

The challenge itself will start as soon as October begins, remember that you are only required to wear the shoes at least one whole day within the month of October but if you choose to wear them more than that, it is perfectly fine.

Since you will be receiving your shoes early please take the time to familiarize yourself with the shoes and the story that is on them, this will help you when it comes time to share it with those you come into contact with in October. Also take a moment to look over the link with Domestic Violence information in it and memorize what you can or simply print out the information and carry it with you or hand it out. Whichever way you choose to do it is fine but I would encourage you to still pick out a few things in each area that stand out to you or that you feel you can memorize.

During the month of October you will wear the shoes throughout your everyday routine examples: to the grocery store, to work, to the gym, to rehearsals, out shopping at the mall ect…..

As you come into contact with people on each of these platforms you will go out of your way to tell people about your shoes, starting with a little about the challenge and the story in particular that you are wearing. If the conversation goes well you will equip that person with some of the information you have learned about Domestic Violence and above all else make sure that they walk away understanding that domestic violence will not end without the communities involvement and a part of that involvement is education!

Now that you have signed up to share your story, it will soon be time to start decorating your shoes! You will be sent some dates, times and locations to choose from where we as survivors and loved ones will come together for a “write the story” party .

Decorating materials will be provided for you and you will have a blank pair of white canvas shoes to get started on. We do give you creative freedom because these shoes can often be a significant part of the healing process. However, there is a guideline we like for you to follow:

  • The person wearing the shoes needs some significant information to be able to share with the general public, please make sure to include at least 2 or 3 significant parts of your story somewhere on the shoes
  • We ask that you include “why you stayed” because we are trying to combat that question and are attempting to educate the public that it is victim blaming
  • I would encourage you to share some things or messages that you would like to say to the public like “judging doesn’t help” most people share these things on the bottom of the shoes
  • You can quote your abuser and be very real with the verbiage because we want the full reality of what you or your loved one went through but if there are curse words please star them out, example: b**ch
  • If you are a loved one sharing some else’s story that has lost their life please make sure to include that on the shoe example: “I did not make it out” or saying how it happened (if that does not bother you) you can also add in a date that they passed

We are also asking that you write a little not to the person that has signed up to wear yours or your loved ones shoes. The note can include encouragement, gratitude, or just helping them to grasp and understand the severity of what you have been through. All these things help this person to represent you well and to create a more significant impact in the community on your behalf.

* Side note- Do not forget the number you are assigned once your shoes are decorated this is how you are going to be able to see the video testimonial from your shoes in November when they are posted.

When I originally started this challenge I realized that a large part of why I was doing this was to create unity where there has been a huge gap. With Domestic Violence it can be hard to do that between the person whose story is on the shoes and the person wearing them for many reasons including safety. But I noticed that the two so desperately wanted to be connected so I had to figure out a way to do that without those that are sharing their stories having to ever be known.

So last year, I created video testimonials, why video you might ask…simply because with it the survivor or loved one gets to physically see the person who is out in the community sharing their stories and they get to experience their emotion through video unlike a typed paragraph.

Couple of rules for the video:

  • Please make sure it is at least 2 minutes long
  • Please make sure that we can see your face, don’t be shy, you are creating change!
  • Make sure to post directly to the “Becoming Their Voice” facebook page
  • Make sure to include the number you were assigned along with the title “Becoming Their Voice Shoe Challenge 2017”
  • Please, Please, Please above all else make sure to say something directly to the person whose story you are wearing, they will be waiting on it!
  • I would encourage you to still show the shoes within the shot at some point in time, or read what is on them to those watching the video

The challenge is officially over at the end of October, please make sure to have the video up by the 2nd week of November. It is extremely important even in your busy schedules to abide by this deadline because many people forget to upload the video and it never gets done, and that creates more disappointment and shame in the survivor or loved one who is waiting to see the testimonial.

Side note: If you would not mind please go to our facebook page when the challenge is over and write a review. 🙂

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare…. You should have at least a 2 week period or more after receiving your shoes to prepare and study. Familiarizing yourself with the story on the shoes will be very helpful to sharing it in October. Studying the information on Domestic Violence will help you to be able to have a flowing conversation instead of reciting facts.
  • Come up with a game plan of how you are going to keep the structure of the challenge but make it your own. Maybe you want to help create a lot of social media buzz so you take picture or video of those you come into contact with and their reactions to what you shared.
  • Try to actually pretend like the story is yours as you walk around in these shoes. Go deeper! Relate things you experience to what victims must go through or feel like when they are actually going through this behind closed doors it will help to get your emotions involved in it.
  • Come up with ways you are going to approach people because the simple reality is that a lot of times people see the shoes and wont actually say anything, coming up with this ahead of time will keep you from getting nervous
  • Journal some of the things you experience or the responses you get and the places you wore the shoes and shared the story. Whether writing it down or journaling through social media or a blog.
  • Wear the shoes to all kinds of different places, you tend to experience different reactions and people based off of the environment you are in
  • Always bring an extra pair of shoes on days you are wearing the shoes because bad weather can happen at any moment in Nashville and if it rains everything will wash off of your shoes.
  • No matter what reactions you are getting continue to share with people because there are victims all around you and they may overhear what you are saying and it can really encourage them that people care and that they can get out!
  • Be prepared for intervention, take a class (like the one I offer) because sometimes once you open pandora’s box you cannot close it, many people who have done this challenge have found out that people they experience on a daily basis like friends, family or co workers are going through domestic violence right now but did not come forward until you participated in this challenge. You need to be prepared for that.
  • This is not just about a simple pair of shoes, this truly is a way to create long lasting change and affect the lives of countless people who have experienced, are experiencing or may experience domestic violence so do your best to put your all into it and to take it quite seriously
  • Keep a copy of resources in your phone whether in attachment form or in a screenshot so it is readily available during this challenge and beyond if you need to use it. You can even keep some numbers in your phone to local shelters

It is so important during this challenge to spread the word throughout social media, we all know social media can be powerful If we use it correctly.

Please make sure when posting anything having to do with the shoe challenge to tag the facebook page “becoming their voice shoe challenge” and use the following hashtags :

#BecomingTheirVoice #ShoeChallenge #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth #BeProactive #GetEducated #SpreadTheWord #SaveALife #ItsUpToUs #TogetherWeCanEndDV

During this challenge I encourage you to use social media for the following:

  • To encourage others to be a part of next years challenge, they can send an email to andrea@advocateagainstviolence.com with the subject “2017 Challenge” make sure to list that on this post
  • To encourage others to proactively seek education on domestic violence
  • Statistics and other information you may have learned from this challenge
  • Daily testimonies if you are wearing the shoes more than one day or more than one place
  • Sharing the fact that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Sharing Resources for those that may have found themselves in abuse

My Story

It’s been 5 years since that day but it seems like yesterday. Here I was entering into a relationship yet again so quickly that I had failed to know whom I was dealing with. It wasn’t until a few months in that I realized he had a drinking problem and then even a couple months after that that I realized I was dealing with an alcoholic. It took some time for it to escalate in rare form but when it did I came real close to losing my life. After the last time he had put his hands on me I put him out of our apartment and told him he needed to get some help. We had been back and forth several times, the normal song and dance where in a drunken rage things would get ugly, the police would get called, they would escort him out and he would come back the next day sober and sorry. Despite my desire before to work it out I had now grown tired of this dance and felt it was time to let go.  Then all of a sudden he was at my door one night and out of pure curiosity and a little bit of pride I opened it despite my better judgment. He asked if he could come in to get out of the rain for about 10 minutes as he waited on the person whom he was now renting a room from to arrive home. I did a quick scan of his demeanor feeling like I could at this point tell when he had been drinking, and I came to the conclusion that it was safe to let him in. He sat by the door as if uncomfortable to come all the way in the house and I was okay with that because I did not want him near me anyway. I proceeded to watch television with my back to him and the door, and before I knew it he had wrapped his arms around me from behind, now before you gasp for air all he was doing at this time was attempting to hug me but if you have ever been to a point with anyone where you could just lose your entire temper if they so much as touch you with their pinky you would understand why I lost it in that moment. He unfortunately did not understand the concept of my right to say “don’t touch me” and then my right to “not be touched”, and between all that had transpired between the two of us in the past 6 months and me being filled with so much anger, resentment and frustration a hug was not even close to warranted.

In a moment mixed with fear and ever growing frustration I attempted to get loose from his hug/stronghold and accidentally scratched the front of his face pretty badly. He let go and his focus shifted to the fact that I had scratched him so hard his face was bleeding, not on the fact that he had caused it to happen by invading my space to begin with.  In disgust directed at me he headed towards my bathroom in some over dramatic fashion as if he was shocked that this could have happened. That was extremely laughable and he should have known that these days heightened emotion was not uncommon to me simply because I was fed up with the things he had already put me through. Now feeling embarrassed that I had let him in to begin with I began stomping towards the bathroom with the intention to make it worse by having a “that’s what you get” attitude, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by something I felt in the spirit literally saying “get him out….NOW!” Since I heard it with great clarity and a need for a sense of urgency I adhered to what I heard immediately and with the best calm tone I could muster up I headed to my bathroom and asked him repeatedly to please leave. Since he proceeded to ignore me I thought going into the bathroom would help him to hear me better. I walked into the bathroom to the other side of where he was standing and before I knew it, in a moment that happened so quickly and still unexpectedly despite the prior warning from my spirit, I found myself pinned up against my bathroom wall with his hand wrapped around my neck and him choking the life out of me. I remember staring into his eyes and seeing nothing but darkness,  a darkness riddled with a determination to kill me! If you have ever been a victim you know exactly what I am talking about, any victim will tell you that the eyes of their abuser are always different when they are in a fit of rage or are so clearly trying to take your life. I at first attempted to fight back but was making no progress, I eventually gave into defeat because I was afraid in all my struggling I would crack my head wide open on the porcelain tub next to me.  I can’t honestly say like people in the movies that my life flashed before my eyes but I can say that a movie I have seen popped in my head and just like in one of its final scenes I just saw myself lying dead on the floor with him hovered over my body crying remorsefully and repeating “what did I do?” over and over again.  Right before I passed out from loss of air he let go and seemingly “came to” like he had no idea what had just happened. This let me know he had been drinking that night, because black out during a fit of rage is not uncommon to abusive alcoholics.  And if he did black out and somehow “came to” in the middle of it, well that was nothing but the grace of God! It seemed like that moment was just wrapped up in so much intention, his intention to kill me and the lord’s intention to save me! I knew then the Lord had a plan for me!

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