New Board Member: Sharai Johnson

By Olivia Pikul

Please join us in welcoming Sharai Johnson as a new Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence board member.

Sharai learned about BTSADV during her time as a member of Leadership Pikes Peak, a Women’s Community Leadership Initiative (WCLI) designed to help women unlock their full potential and make a difference in the world around them. During the program, Sharai chose BTSADV as her volunteer project. As she completed the program, she realized that she related to the mission of BTSADV and wanted to stay involved. She is now deeply involved as a board member.

Sharai chose to focus on Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence due to her personal experiences as a survivor of teen dating violence. Although her experiences were traumatic, she said that they helped shape her into the confident and able woman that she is today and gave her a much deeper love for herself.

“If I had any advice to teens going through similar situations [to what I went through], it would be to surround yourself with people that treat you well, and always love yourself first,” Sharai said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s to prioritize [your] mental and physical well-being. If I won’t do it, who else will? Focus on yourself and know your worth. You are worthy of [a] love that doesn’t hurt.”

We are fortunate to have such a strong, passionate woman on our team. Congratulations, Sharai, on your new position!

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Music Connects Us: Virtual Angel Fund Benefit Concert

angel fund program scholarship

By Rebecca Lynn

Music is universal; it is one thing that all communities have in common. Music links our bodies and minds and forms connections, regardless of the distance.  Whether you are tapping your feet, singing along, dancing, or making music yourself, it is likely that anyone that is listening at the same time is doing something similar. Music transcends cultures, language, time, and the barriers we have placed between us.

Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence has felt the impact of not being able to connect and interact with our community face-to-face.  However, we have held strong to our mission of educating, supporting, and providing resources for those impacted by domestic violence. July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, a month that we devote to our Angels and families who have lost a loved one to domestic violence. Through fundraising, the Angel Fund provides academic scholarships, the Angel Family Retreat, and the Holidays of Hope program. BTSADV has found a way to adapt to the changes caused by COVID-19. During this crucial annual fundraising month, our events have gone virtual with a candlelight vigil, grief workshop, and our Angel and Angel Family stories.

On July, 24th at 5 pm MST, BTSADV will hold our first Virtual Angel Fund Benefit concert on Facebook Live to honor our Angels. Terry Josiah and an inspiring number of artists have devoted their time and talent to make this unique event possible. It takes all of us to make a difference, regardless if we are playing, dancing or remembering those we miss. Music reminds us that even though we are all individuals, we all share music and the emotions that it creates. Music brings us together–regardless of the distance. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Survivor Sister Retreat: #CozyRetreat

By Jamey Sheesley

The Survivor Sister Retreat is designed for domestic violence survivors. The retreat offers survivors workshops to help encourage effective healing after trauma along with a sisterhood bond with other survivors.

I was invited to join the March 2020 retreat and immediately said yes, but as the time inched closer, I became nervous. I wanted to cancel and thought it might be too much to go through some of the workshops. I have been receiving help from my psychologist for years, so did not see where I could benefit. Let’s be honest, I was trying to think of an excuse not to go because I was scared to face some of those feelings I knew would come up during this retreat.

On the day of the retreat, I went to the airport to pick up two more sisters to join us. Many sisters had already canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, which had also heightened my own stress level. I was heading into an airport where the virus could be lurking anywhere. As I sat waiting for the first sister, I faced much self-doubt. But as soon as I saw the first sister wearing her BTSADV hoodie, all my fears went out the window; I was glad that I did not cancel. We waited at the airport for around an hour for the next sister and once she arrived, we made our journey to Woodland Park, Colorado. I was born and raised in Colorado, so going to Woodland Park was not a big deal for me but seeing the reaction of my sisters to Colorado’s beauty was astounding. Mountains are symbolic of healing and I saw that through their reactions.

As soon as we got to the retreat, we learned that there would only be six of us since the rest could not make it due to the virus. At first, I will admit, I was upset. I did not think the experience would be full, but within the first night, I knew I was wrong. I knew the six of us would become extremely close.

Our first workshop was powerful and very emotional, but it was empowering. It was empowering to see how many sisters said “me too” to something I experienced. After this intense workshop, Mama Tammy prepared a wonderful meal for us and we were able to talk and get to know each other. I found that all of these sisters had amazing stories of survival and all were incredibly strong. I was nervous going in because I thought there would be judgment, but these sisters had no judgment to give, only love, prayers, and healing.

The next day was full of several insightful workshops and one tough workshop. The hardest workshop of the retreat included burning a letter. It was a spiritual experience to watch the relief in my sisters’ eyes as they watched their letters burn to ash. You could see them letting go of the hurt and trauma. After it was over we enjoyed hot chocolate and talked late into the night, developing deeper bonds.

Saturday brought on even more workshops, some of them again challenging and some of them exhilarating. By the end of Saturday, my soul felt a new sense of peace. I felt more relaxed and connected to the sisters around me. They are all beautiful and inspirational and have so much to give. Each one of those women has been destroyed but they found the courage to build their lives back. Through the trauma, they still have the compassion to find love again and the strength to help others.

“Our Survivor Sister Retreat has been life-changing for me. I met so many strong women [who have] inspired me to live my life to the fullest. These people will stay in my life for a very long time. I left Colorado and went back to my home state feeling stronger and feeling good about myself,” said Survivor Sister Angelica.

“I feel beyond blessed to know these women and be a part of this cause. We are warriors! The retreat proved that coronavirus be dammed! #cozyretreat,” said Survivor Sister Misty.

“Our sister retreat was more than just a four-day experience. I left changed! I learned a lot about myself, my healing and my journey. The women that I met and grew withspoke the same language. I’m sure we will be life-long friends that will continue to encourage and grow with,” said Survivor Sister Audria.

“It was so great to be in a safe place where I could grow and be with women who knew what I was going through without me even having to speak. I was able to overcome so much pain I have been carrying for 12 long years and I finally feel at peace,” said Survivor Sister Amanda.

Through many tears and laughter over silly things, we grew close. By the end of the retreat, I was happy that it was only six of us. I am glad the coronavirus and my own fears did not scare me off. These girls are truly amazing and I am so happy to have met all of them. Thank you to Mama Tammy, Mama Tara, Carolin, and Rosie for making the weekend perfect. All of you are amazing. Not even the coronavirus was able to stop our healing journey.

If you are feeling nervous about attending this retreat, I promise it is worth everything and more. You will come out of this retreat with peace, strength and a sisterhood bond that is stronger than ever. It was the most inspirational and healing experience that I have gone through.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

A Patriotic Love

By Kristen Faith

It was a cold winter evening in February when Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence hosted the Grand Opening of their office space in Colorado Springs. After years of virtual assistants and shared co-working space, BTSADV was able to secure a home base with the support of one of Colorado Springs’s most patriotic nonprofits. 

In 2017, BTSADV was introduced to Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center by one of their former Board Members and Survivor Sister Retreat participants during a visit to the city. I went with former Board Member Tara Loo, her cousin Susan, and my partner to meet the charismatic Bob McLaughlin, CEO of Mt. Carmel. He shared stories about the organization and the vision of bringing their message to the Olympic City. The meeting was encouraging and full of hope.

Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center provides transition and employment assistance, behavioral health and wellness, supportive services, connection to community resources, and safe event space for veterans, military members, and their families. We knew this would be a perfect fit for BTSADV as we continue to expand our network into the military community. 

BTSADV has asked countless times about serving military families and has been waiting for the right moment. As a military spouse myself, I believe partnering with Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center was the right fit for us.

When I founded BTSADV in 2011, I crafted it based on what was missing in my own journey of healing and recovery. I saw the needs of other survivors and families and was determined to bridge the gap in services. But beyond this passion for serving fellow survivors, I knew military members needed support too. I was inspired by a special someone to dig deeper and intertwine these two worlds because they were more similar than I thought.

“When I learned that Kristen had PTS (post-traumatic stress) from her experience with domestic violence, it opened up my eyes and taught me that soldiers were not the only ones who suffer with [sic] the lingering effects of trauma,” shared TerryJosiah Sharpe, combat veteran and music executive. 

TerryJosiah and I had an instant connection after meeting in a bakery during a business meeting. We discussed ideas for the organization, including a special song called “Better Days” that was later dedicated to survivors, written by TerryJosiah and his brother JJ Sharpe. After TerryJosiah learned he had been unhealthy in previous relationships, he felt a passion to speak out and share his story. TerryJosiah and I began sharing our stories together and the rest was history. 

Together we moved to Colorado Springs in late 2017 to start our next chapter of life together. Little did I know my life was going to change on that winter evening. 

Bringing this story full circle and back to the wintery night in February, it was the Grand Opening of BTSADV. Despite the low visibility, cold temperatures, and canceled flights into the Springs, things were heating up at Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center. The building was packed with dignitaries, community leaders, volunteers, friends, and family for a night of celebration. There was live music performed by local musicians, delicious food donated by You-Ka Cafe and Zoës Kitchen and smiles all around by dear supporters.

Before the night ended Bob McLaughlin introduced TerryJosiah to the room full of dignitaries.  He, too, wanted to thank the guests for attending and had a special performance lined up to commemorate the event. He introduced the story of “Better Days” and directed guests to the foyer where a full band was set. I was completely taken by surprise and found a seat in the corner to enjoy this special performance staged by my partner.

Guests knew what was about to happen and quickly directed me to the front seat. TerryJosiah creatively changed lyrics from “Will you take my hand” to “Will you marry me” and dropped to his knee to propose in front of a roaring crowd of friends and family.

Looking back over the years that have led to this moment, Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center played a pivotal role in our love story. From the first meeting that ignited a passion to serve more families to this wintery love story that will be remembered for years to come, this partnership was truly meant to be.

When we think of BTSADV we think of family and that’s exactly what you’ll get from Mt. Carmel Veteran’s Service Center.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Advocates of Change: A Spotlight on Domestic Violence Advocates

By Olivia Pikul

Finding resources as a victim of domestic violence can be extremely intimidating; shelters are often at full capacity and opening up about your experiences or admitting that you’re in danger can be scary. Hotline advocates can be the determining factor between whether a victim of domestic violence leaves the situation or stays. Hotline advocates exist to make the process smoother and link victims to the resources they need to make a safe escape. 

Each month the National Domestic Violence Hotline receives more than 24,000 calls – that equates to over 288,000 cries for help each year to this hotline alone. At the time of the call, the advocate assists with crisis intervention, develops an immediate plan of action and refers victims to local shelters. To receive assistance and resources, please do not hesitate to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

While hotlines are an extremely important tool to gain access to necessary resources, the process of escaping can feel isolating. Emotions run high and often feel very conflicting. This is why Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence offers a survivor-run hotline. By choosing advocates who have survived domestic violence, calling our helpline offers hope to victims as they’re able to speak with someone who has shared and similar experiences to their own. The helpline emphasizes providing support and validating all emotions that the victim is experiencing. The BTSADV helpline is in place to provide victims with a friend who has similar experiences and can act as a soundboard to listen with empathy. Being heard is a powerful tool in times of need. 

Helpline advocates play a key role in who BTSADV is as an organization. BTSADV strives to provide emotional support and resources, which can be hard to find in times of need. BTSADV would not be able to have such a large impact without our courageous survivors who dedicate their time to share their strength by being an advocate for others. If you wish to speak with one of our advocates, please call 855-287-1777 during the hours posted below. 

Honoring Our Advocates

Advocates work tirelessly to help victims and survivors navigate their safety, but there are few opportunities to recognize them for everything they do. This year, BTSADV wants to recognize the advocates in your community. Whether you spoke to an advocate on our helpline or received court accompaniment in your hometown, you have the opportunity to nominate someone for our 2020 Advocate of Change award. Winners will be announced at our 2020 Evening of Hope Gala. 

The deadline for submitting a nomination is March 1, 2020. 

Every advocate is a changemaker. This is your opportunity to thank them for all the work they do.

Survivor Helpline Hours:

  • Monday  – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST
  • Tuesday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
  • Wednesday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
  • Thursday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
  •  Friday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

November Volunteer of the Month: Shining Star

By Jamey Sheesley

Heidi Lynne, like most volunteers, found Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV) by scrolling through Facebook. She saw an ad for a volunteer blog writer and clicked on it. She knew she did not want to be a writer but she wanted to do something for this group. Shortly after she joined BTSADV, Heidi began making big steps within the group. She is the volunteer outreach coordinator and she absolutely loves it. Her favorite part of her volunteer work is interviewing potential volunteers because she knows when she gets to pass someone along she is helping the organization by adding to the family to ultimately help other people. 

“Each one of us is like a cog in the mechanism of BTSADV and the more cogs we have, the smoother we will flow, just knowing I am making it smoother makes it all worth it,” Heidi said. 

Heidi is the first interaction people have with BTSADV when they want to volunteer which makes her the voice that represents the rest of the group. For some people, it could seem like a lot of pressure but Heidi handles it like a star and does her best to get to know the applicant as much as possible in her interviews. She is able to find a lot out about people just by talking to them, which is why her interviews usually last around an hour. It seems like a long time but talking with Heidi is like talking to your best friend, as I found out interviewing her for this article. She definitely knew how to make me feel comfortable during the call. She has a calming but cheerful quality about her that I was able to connect with instantly. 

Not only is Heidi amazing in her position, but she is also very humble. When she was announced as the volunteer of the month, she was honored but she felt that someone else should have it. Heidi just wants to help others. 

Since Heidi joined the team, she has changed the recruiting staff into something new. She speaks the good in others according to KayLa Allen, director of operations at BTSADV. 

“She is outgoing and not afraid to take initiative. She became a super shining start naturally on the team and that’s what helps her and us to become better,” said KayLa. 

Getting new people onboard is Heidi’s main mission but she posts positive messages weekly for other volunteers to see. She makes sure to keep us uplifted and inspired by the quotes and memes she shares. 

When Heidi joined the volunteer team, she came in with style and grace. She was eager to help and was excited to be a part of the organization according to Kristen Paruginog, Founder, and CEO of BTSADV.

“Since she’s been with us, she’s been able to improve our onboarding volunteer process, grow several of our volunteer committees, and suggest new ways to help engage our team. I appreciate Heidi and the contribution she is making to our organization every day,” said Kristen. 

Heidi also had wonderful things to say about the organization. When she first started, she was amazed that she could contact Kristen one-on-one. With most of her experience, many founders of volunteer organizations are unreachable. Being able to talk to Kristen compelled her to help even more. She is very appreciative of the open communication and being able to talk with Kristen and other volunteers daily. 

Congratulations, Heidi, on being named November Volunteer of the Month. 

If you’re interested in volunteering with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, visit: https://btsadv.wpengine.com/volunteer/.