#GingerbreadForGood: Spotlight on Hotline Advocates

G4G-blogAdvocates are the backbone of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect (our project for teens and young adults). They are here 24/7/365 offering support to people who need information, resources, or just to speak with someone knowledgeable about abuse who will listen and provide perspective without judgment. They do this work because they are truly devoted to helping domestic violence victims and survivors get the help they deserve.

Each day, advocates at The Hotline and loveisrespect speak, chat online, or text with the hundreds of people who contact us; some of these contacts are currently in abusive relationships, some have left abusive relationships, some are friends and family concerned about a loved one and some identify themselves as abusive partners. All are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their situation. Today, we wanted to share a few stories from our advocates about what they do.*

“I chatted with the friend of a woman in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. The friend was doing research because the abusive partner monitored all the victim’s calls and computer use. The victim was financially dependent on the abuser because of school loans and had two young children, so she was feeling very stuck. Her abusive partner was trying to convince her that he was not physically abusive because he never actually hit her, though he had thrown her across the room and choked her. After doing some assessing to figure out the victim’s needs and goals at this point, I connected the friend with a local shelter and provided information on crime victim’s compensation and custody concerns. We also talked about ways that the friend and victim could safety plan together, and discussed places the victim could go to safely use phones and computers.”

“I recently spoke to a woman leaving an abusive relationship who found a shelter to house her, her child and her pets. The only obstacle was transportation. After contacting several DV agencies, I decided to contact faith-based organizations in the area. I spoke to a priest who had a few minutes to spare before church service. I explained the situation and the priest was more than willing to help. He offered to pay transportation to get her to the shelter approximately 80 miles away.”

“A man called in because he was going home to a verbally abusive wife and verbally abusive children. He had told no one in his life about this for years after once confiding in another family member, who immediately told him she didn’t want to hear about it. He was afraid people at work wouldn’t respect him if they knew, and that he might lose his job. I talked about that with him. The caller admitted that he’s afraid of the consequences of opening up and sharing his weaknesses with anyone – after all, when he’s with his wife, she’s aggressive and will exploit his weaknesses. But he realized other people could be more trustworthy than her, and he resolved to tell someone at work on Monday. This was a huge step for him.”

Your gift to The Hotline during our #GingerbreadForGood campaign helps ensure that our highly-trained advocates are here to answer these important calls, chats, and texts. Don’t forget, your donation does twice the good thanks to a matching grant from the Avon Foundation for Women!

*Identifying details have been changed or omitted.

Read more about what Hotline advocates do:
What to Expect When You Call
What Can the Hotline Help You With?
A Day in the Life


Thank You for Making #GivingTuesday a Success

It’s hard to believe just over a week has passed since #GivingTuesday! Our staff had such a great time building and decorating this year’s Gingerbread Hotline. For each donation we received on #GivingTuesday, we added a handmade “gingerbread” person to our winter wonderland. It was so exciting to watch our gingerbread community to end domestic violence grow throughout the day!

Gingerbread Community

Click the image to watch the community grow

We are extremely thankful to everyone who has donated to The Hotline during our #GingerbreadForGood campaign. Your support helps ensure that someone is here to answer the most important call of a domestic violence victim’s life. We also appreciate the kind words of encouragement from our donors:

“This is the easiest gift to make this holiday season, and I am grateful for all of the work by the tireless advocates at the Hotline.” – Cailin Crockett

“Wonderful work you’re doing.” – Robert Zorn

“To ALL the awesome representatives taking the calls and opening your heart, YOU ARE AWESOME!” – Gabriel & Maria V.

Don’t forget, our #GingerbreadForGood campaign runs through the end of December, and the Avon Foundation for Women is continuing to match every donation we receive. The matching funds will be distributed to a group of local and state hotline nationwide, so your gift does twice the good this holiday season. Please support The Hotline today!

Below are a few more pictures from #GivingTuesday:



Adding sweet touches to the Gingerbread Hotline


We had plenty of holiday treats on hand to stay energized throughout the day

Gingerbread People

All of the gingerbread people were handmade by Hotline and loveisrespect staff members

Gingerbread Hotline

For each donation made on #GivingTuesday, we added a gingerbread person to our winter wonderland



Voices in the Dark

Austin Monthly – It’s midnight. Sixteen seconds into the new day, the first call comes in: a distraught mother in New Mexico who’s been physically abused by her husband and wants to know where she can go to escape yet another beating. Thirty-two seconds later, a teenager in Nebraska is asking for help on how to handle her boyfriend’s increasingly aggressive sexual advances. A caller from New Jersey gets through, says a few words and then abruptly hangs up; the purpose of her call—and her fate—is a mystery. At 12:03, a woman in Nevada is texting with some questions about child abuse. As another call line lights up, the clock ticks to 12:05.

Read More


Take Part in #GingerbreadForGood This Holiday Season

At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, $20 goes a long way. And, now it will go even further thanks to the generosity of the Avon Foundation for Women. As part of our #GivingTuesday efforts, The Hotline has teamed with the Avon Foundation to raise $1 million this holiday season. Learn how in the Q&A below:

What is #GivingTuesday?
#GivingTuesday is a global movement where people around the world donate money to their favorite during the holiday shopping season. This year, #GivingTuesday takes place on Dec. 2 and The Hotline is participating through its #GingerbreadForGood campaign.

How does #GingerbreadForGood work?
We are getting into the holiday spirit by building a (much smaller) replica of The Hotline out of gingerbread, of course! Our winter wonderland wouldn’t be complete without a community of “gingerbread” people to help end domestic violence. So, for each person who donates on #GivingTuesday, we’ll add a hand-decorated “gingerbread” person to our growing community of supporters.

How does my donation help?
Every gift to The Hotline helps increase our ability to serve domestic violence victims and survivors. A gift of $20 – or more – means one more call or chat answered and one step closer to safety for someone experiencing abuse.

How is the Avon Foundation helping?
The Avon Foundation will match every donation The Hotline receives on #GivingTuesday and as part of #GingerbreadForGood up to $500,000 – doubling each gift we receive! As a result of Avon’s gift, The Hotline will be able to support even more victims and survivors by providing additional funding to state and local hotlines across the country.

For more updates on #GivingTuesday and #GingerbreadForGood, connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.


Give Back on #GivingTuesday

GT-blogOn Tuesday, Dec. 2, people all over the world will give back to their favorite charities and nonprofits in a global movement called #GivingTuesday. Taking place right after the consumer frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a celebration of generosity and of the important work that nonprofits do in communities everywhere.

For the second year, The Hotline will participate in #GivingTuesday to raise funds to help cover costs that keep our phones working and our chat and text lines running. We hope you will join us. Mark your calendar for Dec. 2, and stay tuned for updates about #GivingTuesday.

Our goal has always been to answer every call, chat, and text for help that we receive, but due to a lack of resources many go unanswered. Your support is still needed and ensures that when someone reaches out for help, they reach a real person every time.

Be sure to connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram!


I #SeeDV as an Issue That Impacts Survivors of All Ages and Abilities: Kathy Greenlee

DVAM-greenleeThe last day of October means the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I see domestic violence as an issue that requires a community response accessible by all survivors; this includes people of all ages, and people with disabilities. However, it is often difficult for survivors with disabilities and older adults to access the support services they need to escape abuse. Although we have made progress, the work to expand access to services for these survivors and bring visibility to their experiences is only just beginning.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s commitment to providing comprehensive support for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is an example of what is needed to address violence in the lives of all people. For more than 22,000 survivors each month, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides that first link to help. According to the Hotline, in 2013, 24% of callers identified themselves as over the age of 46—and almost 10% were over the age of 55. Nearly 2,000 callers accessed help through the TTY (Deaf Hotline) service.

Regardless of age or ability, all survivors of domestic violence deserve pathways to safety. Every day, advocates at the Hotline provide callers with safety planning and crisis intervention. But what happens after a survivor hangs up the phone is just as critical. For the Hotline to have its full impact, its advocates must be able to connect survivors with direct service providers in their communities that can accommodate their needs. For older adults and people with disabilities, this is not always the case.

Last year, the Hotline reported that more than 1,600 callers had difficulty accessing local services because programs could not accommodate their disabilities. That these survivors were turned away after making the effort to find assistance is particularly troubling, given that people with disabilities can have increased barriers to seeking help, such as reliance on a caregiver (who may be the abuser), social isolation, and communication obstacles. Similarly, older adults in violent relationships can find it challenging to leave an abuser or access shelter. Some older people may have medical conditions and disabilities that make living on their own (or in shelter) difficult; and others may be the caregiver to an abusive partner, making the thought of leaving seem impossible.

To improve access to services for older survivors and people with disabilities, there are some basic things domestic violence agencies can do. For example, the very act of getting to shelter cannot be taken for granted. Transportation is doubly challenging for older people and people with disabilities who rely on a caregiver and are reluctant to disclose their need to go to a domestic violence shelter. Survivors should not be expected to find safety without help if they need it. With additional training, domestic violence providers can consider some of these barriers and encourage advocates to reach survivors where they are.

I began my career as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate in Kansas in the late 1980s. Since then, our country’s response to violence against women has tremendously improved, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a model for accommodating survivors with diverse needs—from language access, to the Deaf Hotline. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is over, but I will continue to raise awareness and build support for a network of victim services that reaches all people, regardless of age or disability. I hope you will join me.

Additional resources:

greenlee-125Kathy Greenlee is the Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ACL brings together into a single entity the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Greenlee was appointed by President Obama as Assistant Secretary for Aging and confirmed by the Senate in June 2009. Prior to her service at HHS, she served as Secretary of Aging in Kansas, and before that as the Kansas State Long Term Care Ombudsman. A champion for the wellbeing, dignity, and independence of all persons, regardless of age and disability, Assistant Secretary Greenlee began her career as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate in Kansas. Concurrently serving as a member of the state attorney general’s Victims’ Rights Task Force, she served as the Executive Director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Ms. Greenlee is a graduate of the University of Kansas with degrees in business administration and law.


How I #SeeDV: Crayton Webb

DVAM-webbI remember distinctly the moment that I finally got it. That I understood. The moment when I realized that violence against women was more than just an issue the company I work for had taken on as a priority philanthropic cause nearly twenty years ago. That it was my issue, my problem. That it was a man’s issue. All of a sudden, for me it was finally personal.

I was fortunate not to have grown up in a home with domestic violence. Had never been in a relationship where violence was prevalent. I was, and am, blessed to be in a loving marriage with three healthy, happy, and often rambunctious and loud, little boys.

The story I read in the newspaper that particular morning suddenly made it all seem very real. The story was about a young man from a prominent and wealthy Dallas family who didn’t take no for an answer one night. The teenager and his girlfriend had been making-out in the back seat of his car; he didn’t stop when she said, “STOP,” and he was being charged with rape. How unbelievably awful! Her life scarred and potentially ruined. And his too, for that matter. How could he do this? Why didn’t he stop? Then the judgment came – how could he not know better? Why didn’t his parents, his dad, teach him better…talk to him? But maybe they did. And then the worst thought yet: oh God, what if my boys ever did something like that?

All of these horrific scenes flashed through my head of one of my now sweet little boys, grown up and more than misbehaving: hurting another person, hurting a woman. And then suddenly, it was all clear to me. It hit home. This is our problem! This is our issue! There is no violence against women—no domestic violence, no dating abuse—without the abuser. And that’s us! We men are the problem! And how scary, how truly horrific, that the only role we men have played in this issue up until now, is being the problem!

Men must have another role, a larger part to play in the fight to end domestic violence. What I’ve come to fully understand since I read that article nearly three years ago, is that it’s just not enough for us men to be good guys. It’s not enough for us to not abuse our spouse, girlfriend or loved one. It’s just not enough to read articles every day about women who are hurt in our society by men who say they love them and for us to close the page and say, “What a shame, glad I’m not that type of guy.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are many men—some who are quite organized, articulate and vocal—that have been speaking loudly and passionately about ending violence against women for some time. They have been and will continue to be champions. They get it. But the majority of men—the majority of people, in fact—do not get the role of men here. We men have a larger part to play in ending violence against women, and it’s more than just not being abusive. I understand that talk is cheap and real change comes with action. But I’ve come to believe that the biggest job we men have in ending violence against women is just that: talk. Talking to our sons about what it means to be a gentleman; talking to our daughters about what they should expect and not accept in a relationship; and, perhaps most important of all, talking to each other—other men—about what it means to be a real man.

It takes a lot of courage for a man to speak up to another man and say, “I see the way you talk to your girlfriend. It’s not okay. In fact, it’s completely unacceptable.” It takes courage for a man to say to another, “I know you hit your wife and I want nothing to do with you.”

Courage? Really? How hard could it really be for a man to speak up when confronted with an opportunity to do something, you ask? But here’s the problem. We tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves that we don’t know the circumstances. We weren’t there. We don’t really know the situation. We shouldn’t interfere. We don’t want to judge. We might offend our buddy if we speak up to him about such a personal matter. Offend him?

The fact is that it’s offensive that in the year 2014 one in four women and one in three girls will experience abuse at the hand of a man who says he loves her! It’s offensive that a child would grow up in a home with domestic violence thinking that abuse is a normal part of relationships. And it’s offensive the only role men have played is as the abuser!

The message must be clear and simple: A REAL MAN WILL NEVER HURT A WOMAN! Period. End of story! Now, let’s start talking!

webb-125Crayton Webb is Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for Dallas, Texas based Mary Kay Inc. Crayton oversees the company’s global media and public relations team and is also responsible for Mary Kay’s global CSR and philanthropic efforts. Crayton is chairman of the men’s auxiliary for Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas, HeROs (He Respects Others, #itsoffensive), and was recently appointed to the board of the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas. Follow Crayton on Twitter: @craytonwebb.


I #SeeDV and Firearms as a Lethal Combination: Rob Valente

DVAM-valenteDomestic and dating violence and firearms are a lethal combination. Researchers say that just the presence of a gun in a home where domestic violence is taking place (no matter who owns the gun) increases the risk of homicide by a factor of five. About one-third of female homicide victims are killed as a result of domestic violence; 3% of male victims of domestic violence are killed by an intimate partner. The greatest risk of intimate partner homicide is when an abuser has access to a gun and has threatened the victim or others with the gun.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which tracks homicide data, reports that more intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners than by spouses. And those numbers are increasing.

Yet studies also show that, where states had laws prohibiting persons subject to protection orders from possessing firearms, firearms homicides of intimate partners went down by 12-13%.

What is often lost in all the data is that abusers use guns not just to kill their intimate partners, but also to intimidate, terrorize, and manipulate them. Some abusers intimidate their dating partners by simply saying, “I went out and bought a gun yesterday.” If there is already abuse in the relationship, that statement is far more complex than it sounds. It’s a way of telling the victimized partner, “I have the means to kill you whenever I want.”

In other cases, the abuser may threaten to use a firearm to kill the partner’s children or their pet if the intimate partner tries to leave. Another form of abuse is when the abuser threatens to commit suicide if the victim leaves. All of these actions are meant to intimidate the intimate partner and control their behavior, and the abuser actually uses or threatens to use a firearm to make the point.

Because firearms are so dangerous, these forms of abuse should not be ignored. It’s important for a victim experiencing these threats to reach out to a helpline, like loveisrespect or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, to find a local program that can help the victim figure out the safest response to these threats.

Recently, the Hotline and the loveisrespect surveyed callers about firearms and got some startling answers.

Of those who answered the survey:

  • 25% said their partner pointed the gun at them or others
  • 30% said their partner left the gun out to create a feeling of fear
  • When asked if they knew that the court may be able to order their partner to surrender their firearms and ammunition, only 34% of the participants said they were aware of this.
  • Nearly 52% said they would feel safer if law enforcement took their partner/spouse/ex’s firearms.
  • At least 67% believe their partner is capable of killing them.

The stories that the survey participants told were even more chilling:

  • One caller shared the story about her husband who sleeps with loaded guns under his pillow. One night, she woke to the sound of him releasing the safety next to her head. His guns, she said, are regularly used to threaten her and abuse her.
  • One woman said that her partner shot her while she sat in her car. Another said her husband threatened to shoot her in the face. One of the women said her partner put a gun in his mouth while talking to her on Skype. In another case, a husband recorded a video of how he would kill himself with his gun if she left him. He even showed her the bullets he would use.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, think about whether firearms violence might be a concern. Any use or threatened use of firearms by the abuser against the victim, children, pets, family members, friends, or workplace acquaintances must be taken seriously. The mere presence of firearms raises the risk of death so greatly that it is important to reach out for outside help. Call the Hotline, contact loveisrespect, or reach out to your local domestic violence program to develop a safety plan and to figure out how you will handle these threats.

valente-125Rob (Roberta) Valente is a Policy Consultant for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, with specialized interests in firearms, federal domestic violence laws and interventions, and tribal issues relating to domestic violence. She was one of the national coordinators of legislative work to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Ms. Valente also serves as a consultant on civil legal issues regarding domestic violence for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Congress of American Indians.


How I #SeeDV: Christopher Gandin Le


And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why
we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women
-Tupac Shakur

The song Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac was what made me realize I had to care about violence against women, and for me, caring meant to fight. I know that this anthem is over-simplifying a complex set of issues, and that referring to women as “our women” is inherently problematic. But this song was part of my wake-up moment. I reference it here because I’m very interested in that thing that changes a man from a bystander (or worse, a perpetrator) of violence against women into a man that instead sees it as his duty to make the world safe for women (and men! And everyone!) to live in without fear of physical, verbal or emotional abuse.

I want to frame this post on the next few lines of the song:

I think it’s time we kill for our women

Kill for me meant: tear down.

We have to tear down rape culture. When I was a teenager and first heard the statistics of rape, I promised myself that if anyone ever did rape one of my friends I would kill the rapist. And then one of my best friends was date raped, and instead of becoming a raging vigilante I chose to do as much as possible to end the systemic problems that lead to rape and to provide caring and healing services to victims. There is still that fight impulse though, the anger that some d-bag hurt someone that I love – knowing what to do with that impulse is vital. Activism > Jail-time.

Time to heal our women

This doesn’t mean what Tupac thought it means. We can’t heal someone in the same way that we can’t empower them to become stronger. Healing and power come through time, through self-care. What we can do is to create a culture where women’s voices are heard and amplify those voices wherever possible. Projects like I Believe You | It’s Not Your Fault are amazing examples of what happens when people don’t try to explain or excuse an incident. This is where true healing begins, and our role as men is to know when to rally around someone and help and when to just say I believe you, I’m here to hold that truth for you and not to judge or try to fix anything.

Be real to our women

Being real, not just to women in our lives, but to men and to ourselves. This one might be the most important, and the thing that we as men actually have the power to change. Men account for 2/3 of the suicide deaths in the U.S. 85% of murder-suicides are perpetrated by men, it’s men that have committed virtually all mass shootings in America.

We can no longer afford to ignore our emotions; being silent and strong is deadly. In 2015, I’m launching a nonprofit with the mission of creating safe emotional spaces for men. The goal is not to reduce stigma of seeking mental health care, but to design and create interventions and programs that are stigma-free by design. I believe that men are much more in touch with emotions than people give us credit for, but that we don’t have a place to express them in safe, open and real ways. It’s exciting, and it’s scary because I don’t have any answers, just questions that will hopefully lead to a new way of being a man in this world.

So, that song, now 21 years old, was what made me realize that I had to do everything in my power to reduce domestic violence and rape culture. What was your wake-up moment?

gandinle-125Christopher Gandin Le has helped launch basically all of the national suicide prevention programs. These include the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the National Suicide Prevention LifelineVeterans Crisis Line and CrisisChat.org. He established the initial Facebook/Suicide prevention partnership and co-wrote the Facebook policy on suicide in 2005, and has since helped Google, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest create similar policies. Chris is on the boards of Connect Safely and the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line, and through his company Emotion Technology he continues to link social media companies and non-profit organizations. He was an Aspen Institute Scholar and an Aspen Challenge presenter. Having launched these national and international programs, he’s now looking to fill in the gaps, to find what’s missing in our mental health system and create tools through which communities can support their own systems of healing and care.


How I #SeeDV: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh, how do you #SeeDV?

“I think we’re finally at a place in history where we can see an end to domestic violence. I think that awareness has grown. I think that people are finally asking the questions – the important questions, not the questions of why she stays, but the questions of why he hits, or why as a culture we’re raising perpetrators of domestic violence. I think that we’re at a precipice right now…”

Check out the video to hear more from Dr. Walsh:

wendy-walsh-125Dr. Wendy Walsh is one of America’s thought leaders on relationships. She is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at California State University, Channel Islands. She holds a B.A. in Journalism, a Masters degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and is the author of three books and numerous publications, including The 30-Day Love Detox. She appears regularly on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show, The O’Reilly Factor, Inside Edition, The Katic Couric Show, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and The View. Dr. Walsh was nominated for an Emmy award for her work as a co-host on the Dr. Phil spinoff show, The Doctors. Visit her website at www.drwendywalsh.com.



The Hotline and 30Second Mom Team Up for a Twitter Chat on Domestic Violence

All month, we’ve asked people to share how they see DV as part of the Hotline’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month initiative to encourage the community to start conversations, share stories and learn more about domestic violence.

To continue the conversation, join us for a Twitter chat hosted by 30Second Mom tomorrow, October 22, from 8 to 9 p.m. CT (9 to 10 p.m. ET). During the chat, we’ll discuss topics including:

  • The warning signs of abuse;
  • Characteristics of healthy relationships; and
  • How exposure to domestic violence affects children.

Whitney Laas, manager of digital services operations for the Hotline and loveisrespect, will also be on hand during the chat to answer questions using @ndvh. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #30SecondMom!

Also joining the chat:

  • Andrew Willis, founder and CEO of the Stop Abuse Campaign (@AbuseStoppers)
  • Prudence Williams, program director of the Exchange Club Family Center of Northeastern Florida (@ECFamilyCenter)

30Second Mom is a free app and website where busy women can access information helpful information and share it on their social networks.


I #SeeDV as an Intergenerational Epidemic: Jo Crawford

crawfordI have worked with more than 1,700 survivors (not victims!) of domestic violence in the past ten years, helping them to become financially independent and create new lives for themselves and their families. Only then can they save their more than 4,000 children from becoming abusers or abused. I often hear from these incredibly brave women that they have seen their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and cousins in abusive relationships. How can they know what a healthy relationship is if abuse is the model in which they grew up? Women fall in love with men who they believe are wonderful, only to find that they are violent and dangerous later. This is why it takes an average of seven times for a woman to leave for good, often after the children have been abused as well. This is also true for the men and boys who abuse. They have only seen men in their families abuse women, not treat them with the loving respect they all deserve.

How do we change this? Mothers, fathers, schools, and athletic teams need to stop the continuation of abuse by teaching very young children that little girls deserve to be treated with respect and little boys must treat women of all ages with respect. There needs to be zero tolerance for abuse at home, at work and in public. Not until violence against women is socially unacceptable will the staggering numbers of abuse change.

When I started working with survivors, I thought I would be working with low self-esteem issues, but there is a lack of self worth that is even more insidious. We so often are taught that other people are more important than we are and that it is our job to take care of others first. Women need to be reminded, and little girls need to be taught, that they deserve the very best of everything and that they have the power to create the life of their dreams. I believe this education is the responsibility of all of us, and it needs to start by the age of five. Anything less is not acceptable. If we all do not commit to ending domestic violence, we are as guilty as the abuser. We need to say, “No More.”

crawford-125Johanna Crawford was 13, living in an alcoholic, abusive household, when she watched her father try to kill her mother. The memory never left her, even years later as an adult who had built a string of successful businesses and sold high-end real estate.

In 2003, while volunteering at a crisis shelter, Crawford broke a rule and gave $40 out of her own wallet to a victim who arrived with two young children – petrified and penniless, and without the documents needed to apply for aid. There she saw a gap in what the government and domestic violence agencies were providing, and what the victims really needed in the moment: emergency cash grants as the first step to rebuilding their lives. The woman ended up using the $40 to pay a government fee to access her own records.

A year later, Crawford, who is now 67, launched her encore as the founder and executive director of Web of Benefit. Her Transition to Self Sufficiency and Good Works Programs assist survivors in developing skills for economic and personal independence and ensures each grantee adheres to her “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy.

According to the Mary Kay Foundation’s 2012 “Truth About Abuse” survey report, 74% of female domestic violence victims stay in an abusive relationship longer for financial reasons. To combat this, Web of Benefit has directly given grants to more than 1,400 survivors totaling over $750,000, touched the lives of more than 5,000 survivors, and partners with more than 80 organizations in Boston and 25 in Chicago. In 2012, she was honored as a CNN Hero for her encore work.

Says Crawford, “I believe women working together can change the world.”