By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — It was an evening of celebration, recognition, and awareness raising. What made it even more unique was the number of bold and courageous African American women who put on the gala with the theme: “Unmasking Domestic Violence”. On Saturday evening, October 29th at the Jubilee Banquet Hall, the storytelling and testimonies flowed. From Generation Z up to the baby boomers – one gentleman and several women on program stood, determined to tell their stories in hopes saving lives now and in the future. While each had a story of survival – one woman, Hannah Humphrey, founder of Net’s Nest Shelter – the story of her survival includes the loss of her mother to domestic violence – and the survival of her grandmother who suffered from 36 years of abuse.
As a two-time survivor, Humphrey has lived the generational curse that as the mother of three young daughters – she is determined to break, not only for them but for every other person in danger – especially women of color who, having experienced domestic abuse according to her data have a suicide rate of 65%. – the highest among all women groups.
The evening honored organizations like CONNECT Ministries who support their cause but more importantly – revealed levels of abuse old and new. Keynote speaker Eddie Harrison spoke of the dangers of the newest domestic violence abuse tactic- digital abuse through social media – resulting in many teen suicides. His revelation that every minute, 24 people are abused drew gasps from the audience. Other speakers used the spoken word and song to explain their pain and road to survival. Also present was Roslynne Camper, an African American author out of Chattanooga, who brought copies of her newest book: Dear Abuser: My Pain was Pressure.
One of the most poignant moments of the evening was a reading, “ but he bought me flowers” performed by Hannah’s grandmother Bernice Gibson, herself a survivor of 36 years of abuse. Mrs. Gibson also spoke of the loss of her daughter Netta, Humphreys mother- murdered before she could get away from the abuse that flowed into her generation and down into Hannah’s life making her a two -time survivor, once from childhood and later a bad relationship. It was these two drivers that created a passion in Hannah to break the curse of abuse.
When asked why she was a two-time survivor, Hannah explained that along with the abuse suffered in a relationship, she was also a survivor because she was aware of the abuse in third grade but was punished when she tried to tell and get help because, “you don’t go telling anyone what’s going on in this house”. Sadly, this barrier of “don’t tell”, ended tragically in her home as it does in homes all across the country and its one of the training pieces in her “ Let’s talk about it “series that she wants to teach in the schools beginning in third grade.
Hannah, who is a graduate of the HBCU Fort Valley State University with a degree in Psychology, spoke of how women are afraid to ask for help and how important it is to teach how to recognize triggers and the different tactics and signs before getting into an abusive relationship and if they are in an abusive relationship, the resources to get out so the day they decide to leave is not their death date.
Currently Net’s Nest Shelter acts as a domestic violence advocacy agency and connects those in crisis with resources, acts as a liaison for collaborative agencies and is a connection to after-hours centers. Humphries would love to see more shelters and crisis prevention agencies in Knoxville and would like to see more use of tele-health methods and more counselors of color who can relate to those who come to them in crisis.
“If I can just save one.” is her personal mantra.
Hannah tries to get the message out everywhere she goes that it is okay to ask for help.
Connect with Net’s Nest Shelter on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram or call 865 297 3509 for more information.