AVDA Brochure

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1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime 1


raditionally treated as a private matter, family violence no longer remains in the shadows. Today, with one in three women and one in four men experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime, family violence is finally recognized as a public health crisis.

Founded by the National Council of Jewish Women – Greater Houston Section in 1980 as an all-volunteer nonprofit providing legal advocacy for battered women, AVDA has grown into a 40+ paid staff of advocates, counselors, paralegals, and attorneys.

OUR MISSION AVDA’s mission is to end family violence by advocating for the safety and self-determination of victims, promoting accountability for abusers, and fostering a community response to abuse. AVDA.ORG | 1

From Maisha Colter, AVDA CEO


occupies a unique space among domestic violence service providers. AVDA is not a shelter; our founders realized more than 40 years ago that beyond shelter, survivors must be offered a legal means to end abusive relationships while becoming self-sufficient. Otherwise, they will find themselves in and out of shelters, tempted to return to abusive relationships or continually in harm for the remainder of their lives. Our staff advocates for the safety and selfdetermination of victims by providing them with services in support of their own path to self-sufficiency. Our team of legal professionals understands the impact of years of abuse on our clients and provides them with the very best level of care. AVDA uses the empowerment approach when working with survivors. This means our clients determine what is best for them—be it protective orders, divorce, and/or child custody and support. Our trauma counselors work hand in hand with our legal team to ensure that each individual client’s needs and the needs of their child(ren) are met as they heal emotionally.

AVDA’s holistic approach to ending family violence requires that we look at both sides of the intimate partner violence equation. We help hundreds of abusers each year through our Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), providing the psychoeducation necessary to rehabilitate perpetrators of abuse. In addition to our life-saving, transformational services for victims and perpetrators alike, we are constantly building awareness of family violence in the community and providing education on abuse prevention and healthy relationship skills in our schools. We invite you to join us in our mission!

“AVDA remains the only nonprofit organization in the Greater Houston area providing free legal aid solely for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.” -Maisha Colter AVDA.ORG | 3

Legal Advocacy Program


hat makes AVDA so special? We understand the impact of long-term trauma on those surviving domestic violence. From our bilingual advocates to our paralegals to our attorneys and therapists, we work as a team to provide the very best care for each unique client and case. AVDA offers free legal representation and support to survivors of domestic abuse through protective orders, divorce, child custody, child support, and adoption in the case of parent fatality. In support of AVDA’s mission

AVDA’s Legal advocacy In 2021,


Programs helped


through the legal process.

AVDA serves survivors in Austin, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington counties. that everyone deserves a life free of violence, AVDA employs a full-time attorney/paralegal team to serve the Working Poor (ALICE as termed by the United Way) to serve those victims who earn too much to qualify for traditional legal aid but who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Across our three offices, we serve survivors in Austin, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington counties. The trauma sustained from years of abuse can be paralyzing. In addition to our free legal aid, safety planning, referrals, emergency assistance, and education funding, AVDA provides free trauma counseling to help our clients heal and begin their lives again.

More than $3 MILLION was awarded to survivors because of AVDA representation.

185 clients received 1,110 hours of Trauma Counseling. AVDA.ORG | 5


After thirty years, Deanna decided enough was enough.



fter 28 years in a relationship with her high school sweetheart, DeAnna knew she had had enough—enough of the psychological and physical abuse. She had been married for the last 14 years of the relationship, sharing their home with their two children, who also experienced the abuse. After he finally left the house, DeAnna made the call to AVDA. Her kids were her first priority, ensuring that her daughter and son began seeing AVDA’s trauma counselor as soon as possible; it was not long before she received the help she needed to begin to heal, too. DeAnna and her ADVA team of advocates, paralegals, and attorneys kept their eye on what she knew to be in the best interest of the children. Skilled at manipulation, her ex helped convince the court that sessions first with a reunification therapist and then with a family counselor were necessary because she had “alienated the kids against him—that he was the victim.” However

well-intentioned, the court-appointed therapists forced the children to meet with their abusive father. As DeAnna had warned the counselors, these sessions did not go well with yelling, tears, and storming out of the room…reliving the trauma the three were so desperately trying to put behind them. In the end, it was DeAnna who used her voice to stand up for herself and her children. The final decree approved by the judge reflected that she was finally heard. Through AVDA’s advocacy, she sought and obtained a divorce where dad has limited visitation and possession of the children. For 23 months, AVDA’s legal team helped DeAnna negotiate an oftenbaffling system, and our trauma counseling was the thread that held the family together. At the end of this journey, DeAnna got the divorce that she sought, and the family began 2022 free of the abuse that had tormented them for so very long—a truly happy new year.

“It can be surprisingly difficult to find a therapist who really understands trauma. AVDA’s trauma counselors made all the difference for my children and me.” –DeAnna AVDA.ORG | 7

Battering Intervention & Prev


aking a holistic approach to ending family violence, AVDA understands we must help perpetrators of abuse to end the cycle. AVDA’s Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), the first in Texas to be fully accredited, is our answer to effecting that change. More often than not, individuals are court-mandated to attend BIPP because they have been violent, abusive, and/or controlling in their intimate or family relationships. Reluctant at first to attend the weekly, two-hour sessions, participants soon discover that their group offers a safe place to speak up and not be judged.

vention Program Through their 18-week journey, they are held accountable for their past abusive behaviors by their group facilitator as well as their fellow participants while focusing on personal growth to elicit change. AVDA makes this transformative psychoeducation accessible to as many perpetrators as possible. Our sliding fee scale ensures that no one is turned away based on their ability to pay. With 17 groups from Conroe to Galveston, distance is not a barrier to attendance within the four-county region of Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, and Montgomery counties that we serve.

“As a former judge, I often relied on AVDA’s Battering Intervention and Prevention Program, not only as a way to hold perpetrators accountable for their past abusive behavior, but to rehabilitate them and prevent violence in their future intimate relationships. BIPP is an important tool for the criminal justice system in sentencing perpetrators. I believe in the program, and I know it works in ending violence one abuser at a time.” – Hon. Katherine Cabaniss Parsley AVDA Board Member

In 2021, The BIPP Program served 921 abusers through intervention counseling. “I just want to say thank you for everything. I learned a lot from the BIPP class, and I continue to practice the techniques that I learned. Today marks 452 days sober for me. I have also switched jobs, started my own business, and doubled my income. I got married and was able to give my wife her dream wedding. Life’s been going in an awesome direction for me – thank you for being a part of it. You are truly changing lives one person at a time.” –BIPP Client


Community Awareness & Pre


hrough community partnerships and collaborations, AVDA is working to break the stigma of talking about family violence. We are literally changing the way people perceive and respond to family violence. The Community Awareness and Prevention Program aims to foster a community-wide response to abuse while providing information to victims seeking AVDA’s other services.

It takes an average of 7 attempts for a survivor to leave their abuser and 2 stay separated for good.

evention Program for adults Presentations

Domestic violence is a public health crisis, and awareness across all communities is necessary in order to end abuse. AVDA facilitators speak to a variety of audiences ranging from parent, veteran, corporate and church groups to professional organizations. Topics include: • Domestic Violence 101 • Teen/Young Adult Dating Abuse Prevention • Domestic Violence and the Workplace • Domestic Violence and Its Impact on Children • Anger Management vs. Battering Intervention & Prevention • Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Trainings for Service Providers

We train service providers who have direct interaction with victims as well as perpetrators, offering specialized trainings for law enforcement officers, healthcare providers and faith leaders, just to name a few.

Outreach at Community Events/Resource Fairs

AVDA staffs health fairs and community- and faithbased meetings year-round to meet the demand for information on domestic abuse. Sensitive to Houston’s diverse population, AVDA provides materials in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Vietnamese, and Spanish.

IN 2021, AVDA’S Community Awareness and Prevention Program impactED adults & youth through events & presentations.




Community Awareness & Prev

Domestic violence is a public health crisis, and the first step in putting an end to this epidemic is building awareness across all communities. AVDA facilitators speak to a variety of audiences from parent, corporate and church groups to professional organizations and veteran’s groups. Topics include:

vention Programs for youth O

ne in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, verbal, and/or emotional abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. AVDA believes early prevention and intervention are key to ending domestic abuse.

Texas Senate Bill 9 states that local school health advisory councils’ duties include recommending curriculum for instruction regarding child abuse, family violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking. We provide one-time presentations by AVDA staff at schools and juvenile detention centers and eight-week curriculums for groups.

Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Presentation educates

students on healthy relationships as well as the signs, types, and consequences of dating abuse and family violence.

Safe Dates, a nationally acclaimed, evidence-based

eight-session program, helps teenagers understand the foundations of healthy relationships and is designed to stop or prevent the initiation of dating violence victimization and perpetration.

LiveRespect teaches healthy and respectful manhood and may be offered as a 90-minute presentation or as an eight-week program for middle and high school boys.




lief ISD’s Crossroads High School may be a last resort for students with discipline problems who are behind in academic credits and are at risk of not graduating from high school, but it is also a special place where the kids get the attention they need from a nurturing staff. A product of Alief ISD herself, Kasanya Hardeman, who received her B.A. from Rice University and master’s at Prairie View A&M, has been a counselor at Crossroads for 13 years and shares this about AVDA:

“The students really look forward to the AVDA facilitator’s visit, and after the sessions, I enjoy hearing their thoughts and reflections on current or past relationships. The fact that they are able to make connections and have discussions about safe, healthy relationships lets me know that they recognize warning signs and risks and are equipped to make choices that are in their best interest.” – Kasanya Hardeman, Counselor AVDA.ORG | 13

PARTNer in peace

fort bend county

sheriff eric fagan


e was five years old when Fort Bend County Sheriff Eric Fagan witnessed his father hurling insults at his mother while she cowered in a corner of the house. “He seemed like a giant. To this day, I can’t stand to see a man put his hands on a woman. Verbal abuse for some can sometimes seem as damaging as physical abuse.” Fortunately, his mother ended the marriage quickly through divorce, but the memory of that one event has haunted the sheriff ever since. He knows first-hand the impact of family violence on children. Sheriff Fagan represents one of our many, many partners in improving abuse prevention and intervention. With a background in psychology, he understands that by training peace officers on how to speak with victims, making them feel comfortable to come forward and holding perpetrators accountable, we can “switch the narrative and put the fear where it belongs. Victims shouldn’t feel guilty for the abuse.” “Domestic violence is an underreported crime. By training deputies and collaborating with organizations like AVDA, we can better combat this crime. We can train our deputies on how to respond to these types of crimes to better help the victims.” With his support, AVDA developed an eight-hour curriculum on responding to family violence and is training law enforcement across the region in addition to the many health professionals, social service providers, and faith leaders receiving our trainings.

“Verbal abuse for some can sometimes seem as damaging as physical abuse.” -Sheriff Fagan

The presence of a gun in an intimate partner violence situation increases the risk of homicide by



“To this day, I can’t stand to see a man put his hands on a woman.” –Sheriff Fagan AVDA.ORG | 15

Get involved & make a difference ADVOCATE Do you know someone who is suffering from family violence? The most important things you can do are to listen and validate his/her experience by saying “I believe you” and “You don’t deserve this” as frequently as you can. Be sure to maintain confidentiality, document what the survivor tells you, and refer the survivor to a professional, offering to accompany him/her.

VOLUNTEER Volunteers are an important part of the AVDA family and can assist both clients and AVDA staff in functions ranging from client intake, assistance with special events, and outreach events to providing translations for clients.


Listen empathetically. Ask about physical & emotional abuse.


Accept & validate. Document & maintain confidences.


Provide the survivor with a list of resources. Contact law enforcement if necessary.



Financial contributions to AVDA bridge the gap between operating expenses and funding needs. Consider supporting our mission to end family abuse. 713-224-9911 avda.org/donate development@avda-tx.org

Offices HARRIS COUNTY Call 713-224-9911. Main AVDA Office 1001 Texas Ave., Suite 600 Houston, TX 77002 FORT BEND COUNTY Call 281-207-2312. United Way of Greater Houston - Fort Bend County Center 12300 Parc Crest Drive, Suite 140 Stafford, TX 77477 AUSTIN, GRIMES, WALLER & WASHINGTON COUNTIES Call 979-826-3290, ext. 219. By appointment only Focusing Families 910 Ninth Street Hempstead, TX 77445 United Way of Greater Houston - Waller County Center 531 Farm-to-Market 359 Road South Brookshire, TX 77423

Endnotes 1 Violence against Women Prevalence Estimates, 2018. Global, regional and national prevalence estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional prevalence estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women. WHO: Geneva, 2021 2 thehotline.org/resources 3 “Gun Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health


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