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With Domestic Violence Awareness month approaching, we wanted to highlight some of the action being done in the community for domestic violence. Tamiko Lowry-Pugh, founder of the Still Standing Foundation, makes it her mission to help women involved with domestic violence. With having her annual event, The Purple Affair, coming up; she discussed her event and her nonprofit.

1.) What’s the story behind your Still Standing foundation nonprofit?

The story behind the Still Standing foundation is from my personal experience with domestic violence. I am a survivor of domestic violence and I almost lost my life in 2007, the day I tried to leave my abuser. One of the things that I got out of that, was anytime you’re able to survive something in life; I feel you’re supposed to go back and help other people who are going through what you survived. I launched the Still Standing foundation really because I wanted to bring awareness to domestic violence and also just wanted to make sure that I was able to reach out to those other women, men, whoever else was going through it, really let them know that they were not alone.

2.) The Purple Affair will be your 5th Annual event, called ‘Still Standing and Steppin’ out’; is there a meaning behind the theme?

Yes, there is. Of course the non-profit is named Still Standing – it’s called Still Standing and Steppin’ Out because one of the parts of the event has a Survivor Fashion Show. It’s not your typical, high end, fashion show with tall six-foot models that weight a hundred pounds. It’s a survivor walk, for the women who participate in it, they’re all domestic violence survivors and so a lot of them, it’s their first time stepping out, saying ‘I’m a survivor’. So that whole ‘I’m still standing, in spite of everything I’ve gone through and I’m stepping out to let the world know that after all that I’ve gone through…I am still standing.’ So it’s their first time hitting the runway ‘still standing.’ It’s their way of saying, ‘I’m here and I survived.’

3.) The event is also a fundraiser for Still Standing Foundation Survivor Empowerment Program, can you tell us a little about the program?

We have a Survivor Empowerment Program, for women who are just coming out of domestic violence relationships. Part of the program, is that we help them rebuild their lives after abuse, we offer them first months’ security deposit, support them financially with those first start up expenses – such as when you’re moving into your new place, where you might need help with the security deposit and first months’ rent, just any deposits that they have. We also take a lot of those funds and we purchase Walmart gifts cards and Kroger gift cards, to help them buy groceries and get them started. With the other part of our program, we have a six-week empowerment program; where we have people come in and speak to the survivors. So there’s a financial empowerment portion of it, there’s a self-confidence part and forgiveness part. So there’s all of these different elements that really help them rebuild from the inside out, so that they don’t repeat the cycle of abuse. A lot of the times the cycle is repeated, because there’s nothing instilled in them to build up that confidence. Also, a lot of reasons why women stay and keep going back are because of finances. So we want to make sure they have that financial literacy; know how to save, know what to do with their money and all that stuff that will prevent them from having to be a victim all over again. That’s something I experienced financially, and I said to myself ‘If you let me get through this God, I promise you ”ll help other people’ so, I know what it was like to go back because you don’t have the financial resources.

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4.) Besides ‘The Purple Affair’, what all has your Still Standing done so far?

Aside from the Purple Affair, we also do a Teen Dating Violence Awareness workshop. We offer those to churches, youth groups and high schools. So a lot of the times, we’re in the schools and churches, really teaching teen dating violence awareness. I think one of the ways to prevent the epidemic, is to start with the youth – it’s a little bit easier to talk to the youth sometimes than the adults who have already gone through it. If we can reach to the youth, I feel we can make a difference. So that’s one of the things that we offer, that we do in the community are those workshops. We also do domestic violence awareness workshops, again for churches, corporations and schools. Really teaching churches how to address the issue. A lot of the times churches don’t know what to do when those issues come up, so we have a training curriculum for them. One of the other things that I’m doing personally, I have curriculum coming out in a few months, called Teen Dating Violence Academic Achievement, which will be available to schools nationwide. It’ll be available on Amazon.com; it’s a twelve-session curriculum that takes them through the whole process. They purchase the curriculum and the schools can teach it themselves; we’ll also have a trainer from the program for that curriculum. Some of the other things that we do, we partner with a lot of the domestic violence shelters; we’ll have a spa day or educational day for the women in the shelters. People don’t see the behind the scenes stuff that we do. They’ll see me as the founder, out at an event on the red carpet, and they think that’s what it’s about. I’m like, ‘oh no, there’s work being done’ (laughs).

5.) Is still standing only limited to women?

That’s a great question. So, right now it is just limited to women because one in four women are domestic violence survivors or affected by domestic violence. For men, it happens about one in eight for men, but right now we’re focusing on violence against women. Which includes domestic violence, that’s our number one thing we work with but also help women who are caught up in human trafficking and sexual assault. So we really focus on violence against women and making sure that legislation and the bills that are passed in congress really will help the victims. Hopefully in the future we can partner with some male organizations so that we can support men because I’d love to add that on. But right now it’s just for women.

6.) How can a person get involved with your foundation?

They can either call us (754-777-8263) or email us (info@stillstandingfoundation.org). We will do an over the phone assessment – just a quick questionnaire to figure out where they are [and] what type of help they need. Since there are different issues, they might need us to help putting together a survivor safety plan, which is a plan that helps victims leave their relationships safely. Most women or most victims can almost lose their life so we make sure they’re leaving in a safe manner. We have a tool that we use to help them put together an individual safety plan depending on their situation. It’s going to be different for each person, so we do the phone assessment first.

Side note: If anyone wants to attend the Purple Affair, you can purchase tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/still-standing-stepping-out-the-purple-affair-2016-tickets-24245968344