June 6, 2018
By Riley Huston
Johane could feel her face swelling up in the darkness outside her gym where she was just attacked. Her adrenaline rushing, she racked her brain for what to do next. As a social worker, Johane referred many clients to resources like Safe Horizon’s domestic violence hotline. But in this moment she wasn’t a social worker, she was a victim in need of help herself. “As I was trying to remember the number, I kept saying to myself, ‘June 21st HOPE. June 21st HOPE. June is for the number six…” Johane then made the connection. “The number I need to call is 1-800-621-HOPE!” She made the call and a compassionate advocate was there to listen and lend support when she needed it. Her simple trick to remember the hotline phone number inspired a campaign to help countless survivors of domestic violence.
“I Referred Many of my Clients to Safe Horizon, and Then I Became a Victim myself”
Before Johane came to Safe Horizon, she was working as a social worker at ACS (Administration for Child Services) in New York City. One aspect of her job involved helping domestic violence survivors seeking help get the resources they need to create a safety plan and leave their abusive relationship if they wanted that. Johane often referred her clients to Safe Horizon’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline. When asked why she chose Safe Horizon over the various resources in New York she said, “I knew they would get the services they needed. I’d seen them help so many people; I just knew they’d be able to give these survivors a next step toward safety.”
It wasn’t long before these referrals would take on a new significance for Johane, however. In 2002 she met her ex, and they were married five years later. Not long after that, they welcomed a child into their family – a daughter. By 2012, Johane and her ex decided to separate after issues of infidelity arose in their marriage.
Then in August of 2013…
On the morning of her assault, Johane says that she had a disagreement with her ex. They were separated at the time, and he asked to discuss some purchases he wanted to make for their daughter. Johane had a full day and wasn’t able to have that conversation at the time. Later that evening, Johane, was confronted by her husband outside her gym after a long workout. Exhausted, she refused to talk about the issue and told him to leave her alone. When he persisted, she called the police, her ex responded with rage. He grabbed the phone and used it to strike her face.
With adrenaline pumping – she ran around to a side door of the gym in an attempt to get away, but the door was locked. He punched her once more in the face. Johane was scared and not sure what would happen next. The police were taking too long to arrive and she needed support now.
“That Night I was a Victim, But After That Call, I Became a Survivor”
That’s when she remembered Safe Horizon, and all the clients she’d connected to services for this same kind of who were facing similar experiences. In spite of being shaken up, Johane was able to remember the hotline number. “As I was trying to remember the number, I kept saying to myself, ‘June 21st HOPE. June 21st HOPE.’ The hotline number is 1-800-621-HOPE!” Johane was able to make the call and develop a safety plan for herself.
Johane’s story inspired us at Safe Horizon to start the #621Hope campaign. We aim to help anyone who needs our services to remember the number for our domestic violence hotline. We also aim to raise funds that enable the hotline to continue this lifesaving work. Will you help us raise funds during the first 21 days of June?
“If My Story Helps One Person, I’m Happy”
Nearly five years after her assault, Johane is one of our most outspoken supporters and continues to be an ally to fellow survivors. She now works with the Department of Labor in the social work field. She also volunteers her time as a member of our Speakers Bureau, a program for former or current clients who share their story to create change and provide hope for others who are impacted by violence or abuse.
But her work helping others does not stop there. She co-founded a grassroots organization called Herising Grace—named after her Grandmother— that provides volunteer services, such as providing meals to people who are homeless, visiting children in hospitals and so much more. As an outspoken advocate, she has marched against gun violence, been featured in Safe Horizon videos, and has spoken about her experience with domestic violence on multiple media news outlets.
Two amazing women. Johane and Shandra are former Safe Horizon clients. They are survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking respectively. And they wanted us to share that:
“We are mothers against gun violence! Today we march for our children!!!” pic.twitter.com/V2shNPBCi9
— Safe Horizon (@SafeHorizon) March 24, 2018
She still co-parents her daughter with her ex, something many survivors find very challenging. She says her relationship with her ex has improved.
Johane is a powerful example of survivor strength and one of the many survivors who have turned to advocacy after their own experience with violence or abuse. When asked why she feels compelled to keep telling her story, she said without hesitation, “If my story helps one person, I’m happy. But why stop there?”