Family Violence and Healthy Relationship Expert Dr. Conte celebrates 25 years of the Fresh Spirit Wellness for Women organization, that has helped women who have been in domestic violence situations. She recently hosted an event in October all about healing where she provided tips to the audience about getting out of domestic violence situations, sharing resources, and provided testimonials of those she has helped. Read more of her story here.
Tell us about your non-profit, Fresh Spirit Wellness For Women.
I am proud to say that Fresh Spirit is 25 years old. It is the 1st African American-founded domestic violence agency in Harris County and surrounding areas.
I left a ten-year domestic violence marriage decades ago, not knowing where my life would end up—As I was putting the pieces of my life back together and sharing my testimony, Fresh Spirit was the result. We have been able to provide counseling, case management, legal advocacy, support groups, and various workshops to men, women, and youth who have been affected by domestic violence. We have been able to also educate teachers, students, police officers, and others on ways to identify domestic violence and what they can do to help. We have been able to advocate and teach our clients how to advocate for themselves when applying for protective orders, attending court, and other places where their voices need to be heard. We have been proud to help clients learn to be assertive and self-sufficient. And when they need to escape, we have created and implemented a safe night program that allows them to stay at a hotel for a few nights as we coordinate and implement the safety plan created for them so they will be able to obtain shelter and basic needs.
Because you were a domestic abuse survivor who has spent the last 25 years helping women heal, would you say you see doing so as therapy for yourself?
I definitely find it rewarding, but as an expert in the field, my therapy and healing took place many years ago. Although many of our client’s stories are different, they are similar, and I find my 20-year-old self in some of them. I am often reminded of how far I have come in being able to identify what’s healthy and what’s not in relationships and personal growth. As I share my personal story and expertise with clients, I am able to make a difference. However, when I’m having a rough day, helping clients also allows me to be grateful for my deliverance from such a crisis.
Regarding the “Be the Light” Awards Brunch you recently hosted, what was the takeaway from those that attended?
When you are going through and walking away from domestic violence, your world is turned upset down. It may seem as if you are in darkness and can’t seem to figure out the next step.
“Be the Light” is just that. For 25 years, Fresh Spirit has been the light to so many people—providing guidance, understanding, and safety to those who are trying to find light in their lives. We did not do it alone. With the help of volunteers, sponsors, community partners, and donors, they allowed us to continue to b the light in someone’s darkness for 25 years, so we want to salute and celebrate them as well.
Important domestic violence information
Here are a few safety tips to remember:
- Always have a safety plan in place.
- Keep a record and photos of when the abuse occurred and keep it in a safe place (i.e., send it to a trusted family/ friend)
- Keep your important documents or a copy in a safe place where you can get them.
- Do not share your location (via social media and tracking devices)
Visit Fresh Spirit Wellness For Women for more tips and information.
Photo Credit: Fresh Spirit Wellness for Women