Womankind, WABC-TV help abuse survivors and their children find path to healing

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Abuse survivors and their children seeking shelter from an abuser can find refuge, counseling and legal services through "Womankind, a local non-profit serving New York City for the last 35 years.

Often, language barriers have stopped survivors from immigrant communities from coming forward and seeking help, but at Womankind, survivors are often assisted by counselors who speak their language.

"At Womankind, we speak 18 different languages plus many dialects," Assistant Resident Program Director Shen Huang said. "Our multilingual 24-hour hotline is a lifeline for people being abused who don't know where to turn."

We met at Peace House, a temporary residence with an undisclosed location for families seeking refuge from their abusers.

Executive Director Nikki Sheth said Womankind has evolved from the former New York Asian Women's Center to serve the needs of all survivors.

"We support survivors of gender-based violence from all backgrounds to rise above the trauma into a path of healing," said Sheth, who took over when longtime director Larry Lee retired earlier this year. "So that includes domestic violence, sexual assault human trafficking as well as elder abuse."

The day we visited, both of Womankind's shelters in Brooklyn and Queens -- which can house 20 families each -- were completely full.

"We absolutely don't turn anyone away," Sheth said. "Nearly 30 percent of who we serve now is non-Asian, 10 percent is men."

The charity serves 3,000 individuals a year, offering a multilingual helpline, emergency housing, counseling, legal services, and therapy for abused children.

Alina Victor, Womankind's residential director, says survivors come in and figure out what healing looks like for them.

"Sometimes victims can't think about recovery and renewal until they have a safe space," Victor said. "Peace House provides that safe haven."

One in four women and one in seven men will experience physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the CDC, and the National Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline say 24 people per minute report being victimized. Non-profits like Womankind say they're serving more survivors but getting less help to do it.

"Funding is declining publicly, that is why it's essential in this political climate, which is why it's critical to identify private funding that can support our incredible work," Sheth said. "We take donations for the emergency residences of clothing, food, bedding, but it's the monetary support from individuals and corporate sponsorship which are essential to continue our work to help survivors heal."

WABC-TV has been proud to partner with Womankind for the last decade, donating every year to the annual fundraiser.

WABC-TV is the exclusive media sponsor for the upcoming annual gala on November 13, 2018, and 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda is the honorary chair for this year's event. It honors Cheryl Vitali, Global Brand President, Kiehl's Worldwide, and Larry Lee, Former Executive Director of Womankind.

"We are so grateful to our sponsors," Sheth said. "It is so important and special that companies recognize and put their name behind our cause. It says a lot about what these companies stand for. I would invite people to donate and come out and take a stand against domestic violence in our communities on November 13. It's never been more important to work together."

CLICK HERE for tickets to the annual gala, sponsorship and more information about Womankind.


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