CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A local domestic violence advocate was recently honored as the Purple Ribbon Survivor of the Year.
Neisha Himes is an abuse survivor turned world-class advocate. She was awarded the 2021 Survivor of the Year award by domesticshelters.org for her work across Hampton Roads and the country. She was also awarded $5,000 in grant funding from the organization.
She founded the Girls Recognizing Our Worth (GROW) Foundation in 2016. The nonprofit organization helps families escape abusive relationships.
Using the grant money, Himes opened an office space in Chesapeake for GROW. It was important for her to open the space during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“We’ll have a safe space to be able to meet clients,” Himes said.
Now, the “Survivor of the Year” is calling on more people to fight against domestic abuse and become awareness advocates.
Himes told 10 On Your Side that boxing saved her life. She started boxing to help heal after a toxic relationship.
“For years I’ve been beat. I’ve been beat down in more ways than one and I don’t ever want to feel that way again,” Himes said.
Boxing empowered her in a new way, because so much of boxing is about mental toughness.
“It’s about mentally knowing that you’re worth fighting for. It’s mentally standing up and saying, you know what, this is what I deserve,” she said.
It helped Himes feel stronger and more confident. A boxing mantra became her new life motto: “Pick my hands up. Pick my head up and keep it up!”
Himes said she became a domestic violence advocate after escaping an abusive relationship.
“He used to always tell me I was worthless. It came a point where I had ingested that so much that I believed it,” she said.
In that relationship, Himes often fought back during physical attacks, but she said it was never enough. After years of abuse, she created a safety plan to get out of that relationship in 2012. Now she uses her experience to help others live free of a controlling partner.
“When I finally got out of that situation, and I decided to start speaking out about it. I decided to start speaking out loud because it had to be a purpose to all of that pain,” Himes said.
Himes said her role as an advocate — and the national recognition — has shined a light on her work, but also added new pressure.
“In a way it showed me, you’re doing great work, but it added pressure. Nobody knew there were days that I wanted to quit.”
Himes said most survivors become advocates by volunteering at shelters, answering hotline emergency calls and even working for policy change. Although it’s important work, survivors often relive their own trauma as advocates when they hear the cries of help from others.
Meredith Noha, the Project HOPE coordinator at Chesapeake Regional, said many survivors of abuse deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword, for people that have had the experience of being victimized. They are fantastic because they know what the victim has gone through. They have experienced it, but they have to be in the right place to assist someone else,” Noha said.
Project HOPE at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is an interpersonal violence prevention program. It started in 2020, after a trauma track at the hospital showed a clear need for abuse intervention. Patients are referred to the program based on their patient records. All Chesapeake residents can use the program’s counseling and victim advocacy resources. Himes believes more people in the community must step into the ring to fight domestic abuse.
“It’s important to have allies from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds whether you’ve been through domestic violence or not because we can’t do it by ourselves,” Himes said. “We need more non- survivors to join the fight because it can’t just be up to us to fight domestic violence.”
You can be an advocate, “by believing somebody when they say they are in an abusive relationship,” Noha said.
Other ways to be an advocate:
- Ask are you okay? How can I help you?
- Keep an emergency bag at your house
- Donate to a shelters
- Donate new household goods
- Enroll in a National Organization for Victim Assistance or YWCA advocacy training program
For Himes, the fight continues.
“Someone is always going to need help. Someone is always going to need to hear there is hope, you know, you can do it,” she said.
Every month, Himes hosts a domestic violence support group called GROWing Fighters. To sign up for the class or seek help, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 On Your Side has compiled a list of local and national resources for residents to fight and prevent domestic violence and child abuse.
In the United States, about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) including sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Domestic Violence Prevention Resources
10 On Your Side is committed to help Break The Cycle of domestic violence in Hampton Roads.
Here is a link to all of the local groups or agencies we have highlighted. The page also shares testimonials of survivors.
Here are some local and national resources for victims in need of help.
Transitions Family Violence Services in Hampton
- Phone: 757-722-2261
- Offers emergency shelter and crisis services
- 24- hour Crisis Hotline (757) 723-7774
YWCA South Hampton Roads in Norfolk
- Phone: 757-625-4248
- Offers counseling, youth and crisis services.
- 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 757-251-0144
LGBTQ Life Center in Norfolk
- Provides: Intimate partner abuse counseling and support group, safety planning, crisis intervention and education sessions. Assistance with emergency housing and legal services. Youth services and support groups.
Military Family Advocacy Program in Norfolk
- Provides: Prevention of family violence, victim safety/protection, offender accountability, rehabilitative education/counseling, and command intervention
- Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate (DAVA)after hours: 757-438-4180
Avalon Center in Williamsburg
- Phone: 757-258-5022
- Offers transitional housing, emergency shelter, youth services, legal advice, and counseling.
- 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 757- 258-5051
Samaritan House Inc. in Virginia Beach
- Phone: 757-631-0710
- Offers counseling, emergency shelter placement, and safety planning.
- 24-hour Crisis Hotline 757-430-2120
HER Shelter in Portsmouth
- Phone: 757-485-1445
- Offers emergency services, court assistance, shelter, employment, housing assistance.
- Hotline: 757-485-3384
Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Hotline number: 757-787-1329
- Offers: an emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis hotline, individual counseling, safety planning, children’s services, legal advocacy, accompaniment during hospital visits and court appearances and support groups to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Website: https://www.escadv.org/
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
Virginia Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-838-8238
About 11 million women and 5 million men who reported experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime said that they first experienced these forms of violence before the age of 18.
At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year and in 2018 nearly 1,770 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States, according to the CDC.
Prevent Child Abuse America – Coronavirus Resources & Tips for Parents, Children & Others.
Child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on its victims. For more information on preventing child abuse and neglect check out resources from the CDC or call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 for help.