Category: BF NEWS

Cigars Under the Stars

On October 7, Rueben and Shivani Dhingra Bajaj hosted an intimate Cigars and Whiskey reception at their beautiful Potomac estate to introduce guests from NY, MD, VA and DC to the amazing work Becky’s Fund is doing to support victims of domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence that passes from generation to generation.

Against a beautiful garden backdrop, these new supporters of Becky’s Fund heard a compelling story from a victim, transformed into a survivor, and encouragement from a former NFL player and mentor to the high school athletes in the Men of Code Program, created by Becky’s Fund and recognized by the White House, the DOJ and ESPN as a model approach to engage young men and boys in the struggle to end domestic and dating violence.

This reception was one of the preliminary events leading up to the 2016 Annual Walk This Way Fashion Event to be held on December 9th at the historic Andrew Mellon Auditorium in DC. Chaired by Shivani Dhingra Bajaj, 2016 Walk This Way will certainly be the must-attend-event of the season for the glamorous and socially responsible in the DMV. Tickets and tables can be purchased at wtwevent.com. Becky’s Fund would like to thank the attendees at the Cigars and Whiskey reception for their time and support, Arian Castañeda for providing the amazing Castaneda cigars, Brian Rayford with walkaboutmedia.us for photographing the event, our volunteers, Erik M. Hicks and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, for their event support, and Shivani and Rueben Bajaj for opening up their gorgeous home. We look forward to seeing you on December 9th for 2016 Walk This Way!

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Haleluya

My name is Haleluya Demeke. I am currently acting director of a budding non-profit, the Kebede Gebremariam Institute, and studying Business Finance in college.

I was born and raised in Ethiopia: an openly, and often disparagingly, patriarchal society with foreseeably damning results on a young girl’s view of the world and where she fits in. Domestic abuse was not only accepted in family homes—it was commended. Coming from such a skewed environment has debilitated many men and women in my country by setting a twisted norm for “solving” household squabbles. I was one of the thankful few to leave the country, enter the United States, and come to see a different standard of my preconceived “norm.” My migration was the catalyst to understanding what most victims of intimate partner abuse feel, display and hide.

Becky’s Fund is an organization that works towards empowering victims of intimate partner abuse by equipping them with the means necessary to break free from the shackles of their unhealthy relationship. My experiences, growing up, have led me to have unwavering passion towards aiding victims of intimate partner abuse. This is why I am excited to embark on the road to recovery with Becky’s Fund—to ascertain that fewer victims have to feel, display and hide the symptoms of their abuse.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Riya

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My name is Riya Thekdi, I am currently a graduate student at GW studying forensic science. I love to explore new places, and look forward to getting to know DC.

Becky’s Fund actively works to advocate, gain awareness, and educate victims and prior abusers. By the organization’s acknowledgment of the nuances and cultural influences involved with crime, better solutions are implemented. This insightful way of approaching solutions is why I am interested in working with this organization.

In the future, I hope I will be able to build a career with my forensic science degree. The knowledge I gain from this internship, such as current issues and legal issues, will teach me to react better as a professional.

Read About Clarissa’s Experience with Becky’s Fund

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My time at Becky’s Fund has given me invaluable skills and experiences that I will be able to take with me as I progress into my professional career. Perhaps my favorite experience from my internship was leading the Becoming Your Own Heroine workshop. When I was a young girl, I had no one to talk to about the questions I had in regards to sex, consent, dating, and sexual assault. Lack of education led to a lot of misinformation and feelings of shame on my part, which shaped my adolescent years. Being able to create open, candid dialogues with these girls meant a lot to me. As I lead the workshop, I saw my younger self in each and everyone of the girls. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to change our cultural attitudes is through education and outreach. I’m proud to say that I was able to make a difference.

In addition, I also worked on the Take a Stand, Make a Splash swimsuit fashion show fundraiser event. During the summer, I reached out to Lisa Opie of Vizcaya Swimwear, a fellow VCU alum, who agreed to donate her swimwear line to our event. Lisa’s interests intersected with our mission at Becky’s Fund. As a bullying victim, she rose above the negativity and eventually started a women’s empowerment blog. After contacting her, she even decided to feature Becky Lee on her blog. It was truly an honor putting together this event. Unlike other fashion shows, that only show off a certain body type that is often unattainable, this fashion show highlights the strength and diversity of the female body.

I also conducted research about domestic violence. As the daughter of two marines, I grew up in the military brat lifestyle. However, I was unaware of the rampant sexual assault problems and the barriers survivors face. Unlike civilian judicial systems, discretion is given mainly to the commanding officer, who often times are close to the perpetrator. Because of this most cases are not even investigated, and often times the survivor will be charged with misconduct, underage drinking, or even be discharged from the military all together. Survivors in the military seem to be one of the most ignored groups and it’s inspired me to look into becoming a victim support advocate.

All in all my time at Becky’s Fund was amazing. This internship solidified my decision to work in the nonprofit world for the rest of my career. I also felt very blessed to be a part of an awesome group of summer interns. This summer I took a few days off to deal with a personal matter and when I came back I saw two cards on my desk: a birthday card and a “thinking of you” card, signed by all the interns. Thanks to Maya, Emily, Meghana, and Andy for making this summer awesome and thank you to Becky for the amazing opportunity.

Learn More About Maya’s Experience with Becky’s Fund

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The work I have done this summer has been unlike any I’ve done in the past. I’ve been frustrated, sad, and discouraged. But I’ve also been uplifted, happy and hopeful. I am very thankful for my time here and the ways it has strengthened me.

I realized that sexual education is absolutely my passion and that I want to continue with it whether through advocacy or teaching. Working with the football team every week through Men of Code opened my eyes to the lack of knowledge students have about consent and healthy relationships. Though the things they would sometimes say upset me, I was determined to change their minds. Through the surveys we gave during each lesson, I was humbled to see their attitudes shift on these topics. In addition, I rewrote the curriculum for Men of Code to be comprehensive for anyone, regardless of their teaching experience or knowledge of the topic. I am really proud of this project, as it took me the entire summer to complete, and I believe it will really help the program facilitators in the future.

As for the research I conducted through my university, I have learned a lot about the impacts of rape culture on college campuses and the ways it silences victims of dating violence. If our society continues to place blame on survivors and those trapped in cycles of abuse, our ability to help them through the experience and recovery is limited. In particular, the lack of education about consent, relationships, and bystander intervention continue to perpetuate negative attitudes and violence. When I return to campus, I am determined to continue looking at these obstacles in prevention and response as well as work with my university and community to better respond to these situations.

In my time at Becky’s Fund, I have grown as a friend, a mentor and an advocate. I’ve learned I am more than any violence I once faced and I am better than the societal expectations that attempt to silence me and others. I’ve worked with and learned from an incredible team of individuals, all very different from one another, who came together for a greater purpose- to end domestic violence. This team has shown me more encouragement, support and love than I ever expected and it makes me sad that I won’t see them all everyday. Yet they have inspired me to change the world, and I’m forever grateful for that.

Learn About Andy’s Experience with Becky’s Fund

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My time at Becky’s Fund has been a truly eye-opening and exceptional experience. I remember waking up in June on my first day of work, having no idea what to expect and as nervous as I have been for anything in my life. However, all of my concerns quickly vanished upon my arrival to the office as I was welcomed with open arms by Becky and the other interns. I knew early on that this summer would be unlike anything I have experienced in the past.

I came into the internship knowing that I would be helping to facilitate the Men of Code program, but that was about it. Having minimal experience working with issues surrounding IPV, my initial tasks revolved around researching, studying, and getting acclimated within the field. More specifically, I began by researching collegiate and professional athletes that have perpetrated domestic or sexual violence, and how these cases were handled. Before this, I knew that in some instances, these crimes were swept under the rug by institutions in order to protect the athlete, but I had no idea of the frequency that this occurred. I quickly became aware of many studies and statistics regarding athletes and IPV, and I have been able to bring this new found knowledge to the students in the Men of Code program.

Once the last week of June came, the majority of my time with Becky’s Fund was spent at Friendship Collegiate Academy teaching the Men of Code program. Other than obvious difficulties with attendance due to summer vacation, the program proved to be a transformable experience for not only the boys, but also for my co-facilitator, Malik, and myself. I plan on taking everything that I have learned through my experience with Becky’s Fund and Men of Code back to Dickinson College and my lacrosse team. As men, and leaders on our campus, we have a responsibility to help influence change.

All in all, my time at Becky’s Fund has been very positive. I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity to come work at this great organization, and for the amazing people I have had the chance to work alongside with during the summer. I have learned so much during this experience, and I will take everything with me as I continue to navigate through life. I cannot thank Becky enough for this opportunity, and I wish her, and her organization, the best of luck as they continue to make strides in IPV prevention and support.

Read About Emily’s Experience with Becky’s Fund

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This summer at Becky’s Fund has been unlike any summer I’ve had before and, I suspect, unlike any summer I will have again. I learned firsthand how exciting, unpredictable and consuming life at a small nonprofit organization can be.

When I was younger, I assumed that there would be a stark divide between my life and my work. At Becky’s Fund, I learned that this line blurs when you truly care about what you do. Although I was already passionate about women’s issues when I arrived, I quickly set to work educating myself about domestic violence (IPV). My work with the women, survivors and students at Becky’s Fund provided me with a crash-course in IPV: what it looks like, why it occurs and how we can prevent it. I can confidently say that this education has changed my life because I am now a dedicated and determined advocate for all survivors of IPV.

At Becky’s Fund, I did research on gun violence, IPV within the LGBTQ+ population, domestic abuse law, teen dating violence, women’s empowerment and more. I reworked the curriculum for the girl’s workshop Becoming Your Own Heroine with all the new information I was learning. I directed, produced and edited videos about these issues in an effort to raise awareness. I edited and wrote grants. I edited the Becky’s Fund website pages with updated statistics and resources. I updated the social media accounts. I took photos at Men of Code and other events. I even did statistics based on the data from Men of Code and Becoming Your Own Heroine. Most importantly, I did all of this with the intensity and zeal of a young woman who really cared about her job’s cause.

My favorite experience at Becky’s Fund was teaching the Becoming Your Own Heroine workshop. Clarissa, my co-teacher, and I stood in front of a room of 14–16 year old girls and taught them about women’s empowerment. We explored topics such as dating violence, consent, sexual assault, gender norms and digital abuse — all while laughing, sharing personal stories and bonding. It was gratifying to watch the curriculum, which Clarissa and I had spent weeks working on, come to life. I hope that the next time one of those girls confronts an abusive situation, or even just a piece of media that depicts women poorly, they think of what Clarissa and I taught them.

I am grateful to the women (and man — thanks, Andy) that I worked with this summer at Becky’s Fund. Becky and her phenomenal team have inspired me to be a better version of myself.
#EndIPV!

Forget Me Not: Taking the Leap

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It’s been awhile since I last wrote, during which time I’ve been busy turning my life on its head and shaking out the debris. In my last post, “What Controls You?,” I shared that security was controlling me. In many ways, that post was me journaling where I was at that very moment in time. It was a guided meditation of the reasons I was unhappy in my job and how I had allowed myself to get to that point. Control is a very serious issue for me, as it is for many survivors of domestic violence. Control was such a huge part of my life and something that I have worked very hard to eliminate. And yet, I found myself in a different type of controlling situation brought on by what I allowed in my life.

I heard my own words and they solidified what I had been feeling for months, if not years. And, since I last wrote, there has been a lot of change. First and foremost, I gave notice to my job. This was not any job; it was a career that I had worked very hard for. It gave me security, income, and benefits. There was little to no chance that I would lose my job, be laid off, or have to transfer. Yet, I was so unhappy that it affected every part of my life. I did not like what I was doing or how the lay of the land was. It was not where I belonged. So, I finally got up the courage to walk away. As of the end of this month, I will no longer answer to anyone.

Second, I plunged head-first into Yellow Wood Learning Community, a homeschool resource center. I get to teach and help students become the best individuals they can be. This is not a school where students come to memorize and test. It is a community where they come to grow and become all that they were meant to be as an individual. It is a place where they can blossom and live without fear and judgment. It is a place where they can just be. Being a part of this sort of program creates more joy than I can adequately express.

And, in all of this, I watched Forget Me Not Advocacy Group bloom! We celebrated our non-profit status and held our first fundraiser. Connections are happening left and right, speaking engagements are coming to fruition, and Forget Me Not is coming into it’s own as an organization bringing change to South Florida.

It is important to me that I share what I have learned in all of this. Taking the leap is the difficult part, as the fear of uncertainty often holds us back. My fear that I would lose my security overshadowed my ability to believe in myself and follow my dreams. But, just as when I finally left my marriage, making the leap is when you feel the weight lifted from your shoulders. There is no longer the fear of what you are giving up and what might be. Instead, you have nowhere to go but forward. And moving forward is a wonderful place to be.

No matter if you are considering walking away from an abusive or toxic relationship, or walking away from a toxic job or situation, know that taking the leap is the hardest part. It is only after you jump that you can learn to fly.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Learn More About Natalie’s Experience with Becky’s Fund

During my time at Becky’s Fund, I developed a variety of helpful skills that I believe will benefit me in my future career. Through my research, I expanded my previous knowledge about the gender asymmetry of domestic violence. I also came to a much more in depth understanding of the intersection between race, professional athletics, and violence, when I explored the media’s portrayal of professional athletes who have committed violent acts. In addition, I developed deeper knowledge of the risk factors for domestic violence perpetration and explored various theoretical models that attempt to explain the root causes of violence. This research enabled me to strengthen my comprehension of what topics prevention education programs need to directly address if they would like to adequately prevent violence.

In addition, when I worked on the issues of coerced debt, financial abuse, and joint bank accounts in violent relationships, I was able to improve my teamwork skills as I worked collaboratively with an expert in finance.

My research and evaluation of the Men of Code program has helped me to utilize my quantitative research skills in a real-life setting. Being able to witness the actual prevention education program also helps me to connect what I have read in the literature and what trends I see in the data with actual people. Finally, working directly in workshops with young girls and also with college students as a facilitator has improved my knowledge of the gaps that exist in our culture as far as understanding healthy relationships, conflict resolution, and the dynamics of abuse.

In general, I feel that I have made significant connections between the various theoretical explanations for violence and the actual prevention work that is necessary to end it and I hope to apply this connections in my future work.

Forget Me Not: What Controls You?

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Over the past few weeks, I have been taking ownership of my life. I mean, really sinking deep into the root of what still controls me: security. We all know that domestic violence is all about power and control, but what happens when that power and control is directed towards someone that cannot be completely dominated — say an employee — or when you, as an individual, give up your power and allow yourself to be controlled by something, or someone, else.

I spent quite a few years rebuilding my life after my marriage. I believed that I could control my happiness by finding security, proving my abuser wrong, and keeping busy. But these things do not create happiness. Even more, finding security meant working a job that proved to be less of who I was and more of who I believed myself to be. No matter how much personal growth was taking place, the person I had to be at work remained the same. There were certain expectations, rules that had to be followed, a lot of directives, but no explanations. With each year that passed I found myself being backed further into a corner and less of the free spirit that was finally emerging in every other area of my life.

But my job gave me the security I needed. I had worked hard for it; studied hard, trained hard, and beaten the odds of getting hired in a field that many strived for. And yet I was triggered weekly. Now, I know how strange that might sound. How does one get triggered at work? For some, triggers at work come from a mean boss that yells, talks down to, or demeans their employees. Today, there are a lot of laws on the books that prohibit that type of behavior and give employees backing if their boss is acting out in that kind of negative fashion, which has likely stopped some of that behavior.

But that is not what I’m referring to. In my case, it was all about control and how those laws can be twisted by employers so that they are not breaking the above mentioned rules and, yet, still not giving up their power and control. Some call it passive aggressive behavior; I call it emotional manipulation.

It’s important to point out that there were two equally different things happening in my work life that were allowing me to be controlled by my security issues. First, I found that I did not enjoy my work. As a matter of fact, I truly disliked it and was stressed by it daily. I didn’t dislike it because I was bored; I disliked it because it was not me. I was doing something every day that put me in situations I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t like how I felt when I came home at night, I was surrounded by negativity, and I felt trapped by the numerous laws that were laid out for me to follow in my professional and personal life (trigger).

As someone who is a free spirit (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life) and someone who was emotionally, verbally, and physically abused by my husband for many years (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life), being in a work environment that was intent on controlling my actions and behaviors was not the best fit. If you understand triggers, you will understand how uncomfortable my daily life was becoming.
But there was another problem that started to rise up and affect my relationship with my job even more. As I became more and more uncomfortable with the realities of my daily interactions with work, I became defensive. I felt like a fish out of water. It was clear to me that I did not belong there, but try as I might, I was unable to find employment that was comparable. It was a two-edged sword. I could leave a good job to be happy, but then know that I would be right back to where I started seven years ago…broke. I fought hard to get this job. It took years of schooling and work, it gave me self-confidence and financial security when I needed it the most. I had become something. And he had always told me that I would amount to nothing.

Was I just going to throw it all away? That would be insane. So, I trudged forward. But the stronger I became in my personal life, the more out of place I was in my work life. I had true moral issues with what I was involved in. They were not illegal, actually quite the opposite, but they went against everything I said I believed in; everything I had become. And when I started to question what was going on, I was met with the passive aggressiveness that I was all too familiar with. It was the same as what my ex-husband used to use on me daily.

And with every comment that turned my concerns back on me and away from the organization, I saw that it was all about power and control. Anyone who seeks power and control, be it in a relationship or a job, is often willing to spin the story to suit them and question the accuser. It was all too familiar.

With each conversation and email, I saw a trend of putting the blame back on me, questioning my understanding of “simple concepts,” and diminishing my concerns as questionable or due to some form of brokenness on my part (I didn’t understand, this is how it is for everyone, I was too sensitive, I was taking it the wrong way, they were doing everything in their power to resolve the situation that never got resolved, etc.). There was never a time where my concerns were considered legitimate or worth looking at. And if I pushed too hard for answers, I was threatened with misconduct charges and punishment.

And each time I was triggered. Each time, my blood pressure rose, my emotions were frazzled, and I came home angrier than I was the day before. Soon, I felt like an animal backed into a corner. I needed the income and security but it was devouring me very slowly. It was stealing my joy. I found myself fighting with old demons like depression and anxiety all over again. I had left one controlling relationship and replaced it with another.

I was allowing the “need” for security to control me. I was ignoring my passion, for money. And, I was living a lie, daily, out of fear.

When I made the decision to move forward and trust my instincts, all of that faded away. As always, our growth is a process. We can chose to be controlled, live as a victim, or give up on our happiness, or we can choose to create change in our lives.

What controls you? Will you break free?


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

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