In Our Community: Collaborating to End Domestic Violence

By Sharon K. Roberson, President & CEO YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee

A few months ago, Maria  had one arm in a sling, while the other carried her infant baby.

The beating from her husband had put her in the hospital, and now that she was being discharged, she couldn’t go home. She had someone beside her though, the man carrying her bag into the Weaver Domestic Violence Center.

That man who escorted Maria to safety was the Metro Nashville police officer working her case. Without his kind insistence, guidance and protection, we know from our long experience at the YWCA that Maria and her child likely wouldn’t have made into safety.

Aside from the physical injuries, domestic violence inflicts trauma and toxic stress in its victims, and sadly, many view this as an unsolvable fact of life. One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. More than 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence in the U.S. every year. And Tennessee now ranks 4th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women.

Nashville, we are better than this. And our community knows how to roll up its sleeves and get things done.

Just last year, Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson and Mayor Megan Barry adopted the Lethality Assessment Program, an innovative, proven, strategy developed in Maryland to prevent domestic violence homicides and serious injuries.

In the past, Nashville police officers would simply hand out safety cards with a crisis number printed on it. Now, YWCA-trained police officers actually help victims make a phone call if the protocol determines they are in a lethal situation, and victims such as Maria are getting the help to become survivors.

Since the LAP has been implemented, the call volume at the YWCA hotline has doubled, and with limited resources, we work closely with community partners to give victims and their children a much better chance to break the cycle of violence and heal.

Thanks to Family & Children’s Services, our youngest residents undergo therapy to heal from the trauma and toxic stress they’ve endured growing up in abusive homes. Metro Nashville Public Schools steps in to offer consistency to these children’s lives through the Homeless Family Resource program. And the Nashville Food Project partners with the YWCA to provide daily meals to our Weaver Center residents.

Our clients, who have often been controlled and isolated by their abusers, take part in career counseling. The YWCA’s Family Literacy Center offers adult education programs. When it’s time for them to leave the shelter, community housing partners are there to help them find a safe, affordable place to live.

And when it’s time to move in, the YWCA’s Re-New project sends its enthusiastic all-volunteer team in to decorate and furnish the survivors’ new homes.

Then there’s AMEND Together, the YWCA’s newest effort. It’s a prevention program aimed at men and boys. AMEND challenges a culture that too often condones violence against women. It teaches healthy masculinity, and it’s changing the future not just for the boys and young men, but for the women and girls who will come into their lives.

When I step back and think about it, it’s breathtaking what Nashville has committed to doing. And we at the YWCA are thankful to be part of our city’s ongoing response to domestic violence.

I talked to our domestic violence staff about that day Maria was brought to our shelter, about how the MNPD officer took the time to thank our workers for dedication to these women, children and families.

They said he seemed genuinely startled when the staff praised him in return. He was so dedicated to Maria’s safety he hadn’t realized what an extraordinary role he’d played in her journey to safety.


***This piece was originally posted on The Tennessean, entitled “How a Nashville police officer helped save a domestic violence victim.”


Sharon K. Roberson is President & CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. The 119-year old nonprofit is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. The YWCA operates the largest domestic violence shelter in Tennessee. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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Week Without Violence is part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls with YWCAs across the country and around the world. At YWCA, we know that not all violence is acknowledged or responded to equally. That’s why, for more than 20 years, YWCA has set aside one week in October as a Week Without Violence. Join us from October 16 to 20 as we hold events, share information and stories, advocate, and more with a common goal in mind: together, we can end gender-based violence.

Want to join the movement to end gender-based violence? Learn more, look up events in your area, register your own event(s), and more at our website, and join the conversation on social media!