National statistics state that one in every four women will experience some type of domestic violence within her lifetime. These dismal numbers spurred one local group, Women Against Abusive Relationships, to reintroduce an educational and support program, the Healing Space.

Under a renewed spirit, the rebirth and reunion of this empowerment program took place at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. Having been on hiatus since 2009, the Healing Space revived its mission of supporting and nurturing women who have endured intimate partner relationships (domestic/dating violence) or sexual violence. The program focuses on educating women, young and old, and interested men, on the issues of intimate partner abuse.

The Healing Space Reunion and Rebirth program began under the spiritual direction of Rev. Eileen O. Smith, pastor, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, West Newton. Rhonda L. Fleming, MSOL, education director, Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, kept the program moving along as emcee. Ebony Hughes, RN, LCCE, clinical patient educator, Healthy Community Program Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, welcomed all on behalf of Magee-Womens Hospital. Rosie Jones Moore gave a poetic performance and Kim El, local poet, writer and actress, performed excerpts from her one-woman play, “Straightening Comb.”

A panel of experts spoke about and addressed questions surrounding domestic partner abuse issues:

Char­lotte Brown, PhD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Health and Community Systems, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director, Health and Behavior Studies Program, presented “Therapy is NOT a Shameful Word;”

Mario C. Browne, MPH, CHES, director, Office of Health Sciences Diversity Doctoral Student, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, presented: “How Young and Adult Men Can Join the Fight to Prevent Violence Against Women & Girls;”

Jessica G. Burke, PhD, MHS, associate professor, associate chair for Administration Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health reported on academic-community research partnerships addressing intimate partner violence;

Sergeant Eric Kroll, Pittsburgh Police Training Academy, discussed law enforcement and domestic violence; and

Kia Richardson of Dayton, Ohio, shared her moving story of her survival of domestic abuse.

WAAR was founded in 2001, and the Healing Space was born in 2004 by executive director Roxanne Epperson, as a place for females who are hurting or have been hurt in domestic relationships to find help through empowering activities including motivational workshops.

 “As a result of my surviving an abusive relationship that almost took my life, I became very passionate about helping women heal after being abused, “ Epperson said.

After learning the dynamics of abuse, Epperson said she realized that WAARs focus should not only be on helping women heal, “but we needed to educate the community-at-large about the devastating effects that violence against women has on all of us, including family members, friends, co-workers, employers, etc.”

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