Today we’d like to introduce you to Imani Evans-Baskin.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a survivor of sexual violence and domestic abuse, I started the organization that I needed. By the time I arrived in Atlanta from New Jersey in 1996, I was a long-term survivor of abuse and had been in therapy for many years. I was no longer a victim but I knew that my healing was about continuing to evolve. I looked for programming that met my holistic approach needs over the years. I could not find it. It is at times like these that we must be part of the solution… we must be the change we are seeking.
I held the first survivor meeting in my living room, in December of 2004. It was abundantly clear from the support and turn out of subsequent meetings that it was filling a critical need. I started building a volunteer team of other like-minded women who were also seeking healing. And it was then that Women Healing Women was official.
In April of 2005, we received an invitation from Unity Fellowship Church of Atlanta to hold our meetings at the church location. We delightfully accepted and have been partners with Unity since that time. Now we have our own office space for programs and services, located in Decatur, GA. We wholeheartedly believe in collaboration to reach our goal of eliminating violence against women and girls.
As the founder, I was committed to building an organization that truly empowers women. Women Healing Women was destined to be an organization that not only supports victims of violence but really shows women that violence is an experience, not an identity. I truly believe that surviving is only part of the healing journey and that thriving is the true destination. Dr. Maya Angelou says it best, “Surviving is necessary, but thriving is elegant.” We believe and practice this concept in the design and implementation of all programs and services. We further believe that violence is an attack of the mind, body, and soul. Therefore programs that seek to help women heal must address each area to be sustaining and authentic. This is the support we provide.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, of course not, Any vision so big that you need God to make it happen is bound to meet resistance. Women Healing Women has been no exception to that rule. Some of my challenges were simply the same as an executive director and founder: money, volunteers, resources, etc. However, others have more surprising. In the beginning, I approached many places to offer our support groups. My desire was to meet women where they are throughout Metropolitan Atlanta, specifically targeted at marginalized or dis-empowered women. Some of the places rejected our presence out of bias and discrimination.
For example, at one location, I met with the director and pastor. She was very impressed with the mission of our organization. We decided on terms and made an agreement to move forward with holding one of our monthly support group meetings there. The pastor required the approval of any flyer or collateral promoting the meeting that would be held in her location. That made good sense to me and was a perfectly reasonable request. However, when I shared the flyer she noted the line that stated, “all women are welcome without bias.” She asked what that meant. While I thought it to be self-explanatory, I thought the question was fair. I explained that we are open to ALL women. She asked if that included lesbian women. I said, of course. The pastor informed me that this was unacceptable and would nullify our agreement. I should mention that she offered us to move forward as long as I would take that line out of the print material and no longer recruit lesbian women for this particular location.
There are some experiences that help us clarify our values. Sometimes, we face these experiences with the risk of losing something we desire. It is then that we must decide who we truly are and what we truly believe. This was one of such moments for me and my vision. I declined to alter any flyer and further declined to be associated with any entity that separates women from their healing in any oppressive manner. I left that experience with clarity, no judgment, and firmly rooted in calling. My values were clear and so was my heart.
Please tell us about Women Healing Women, Inc.
Women Healing Women is a non-profit organization committed to the holistic healing of women survivors of sexual & domestic violence, and the subsequent secondary trauma, via support, education, advocacy, and counseling. We are particularly focused on long-term survivor issues and providing services to marginalized communities.
CORE VALUES: Our core values drive the design and delivery of all programs and services:
-Every woman has a right to be free from violence, without compromise.
-Programs and services are client-centered and mission-driven, serving only the participant’s highest good.
-Every woman is empowered with the choice to recover and heal at her own pace without judgment or discrimination.
-Violence is an attack of the mind, body, and soul. Thus our overall programming must address each of these areas to have the greatest impact.
We offer monthly support groups, resources & referrals, community education, and one on one support. Our services are focused on women who are otherwise marginalized, such as women of color and same-gender loving women. Our ongoing programs include a monthly discussion group for long-term survivors of sexual assault, weekly mindful meditation, and the Love Doesn’t Hurt program for women who have experienced domestic abuse. We also conduct various community discussions to educate individuals and families on the ways in which violence impacts us all. Most of us have experienced the effects of violence and no one is exempt.
I am most proud of the fact that we: 1) have stood the test of time as this little non-profit just trying to do good work 2) that many of the board members who started with me are still with the organization and 3) that women who have felt “othered” or marginalized in other programs find comfort and healing with Women Healing Women.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Sitting in the living room on the sofa with my father talking and laughing. My father was the most brilliant man I know. His intellect was strong but it was well balanced with his amazing emotional intelligence. I loved talking with him. He would debate with me just to make sure I could adequately articulate my point of view, or change it when it is not sound. I admired his openness and critical thinking. He was a veteran and well traveled so he loved people and other cultures. I loved sofa time with my father. He died in 1990, but his insights and laughter are sweet memories that will soothe my spirit in perpetuity.
- Individual counseling $65.00
- Couples counseling $110.00
- Monthly support groups & meditation classes are free.
- Address: Women Healing Women, Inc.
4151 Memorial Drive, Suite 115-D
Decatur, GA 30032
- Website: www.surviving2thriving.org
- Phone: 404.944.6409
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WHWAtlanta/