Daya Issues "A Call to Action to Address and End Domestic Violence."
On September 19, Mohammad Goher, a father of three murdered his children in Houston. His wife Norma Goher was in the process of obtaining a divorce from her husband, who had been previously convicted of domestic violence and had two protective orders issued against him. The Goher divorce was in the final stages. Daya stands with the mother as she goes through grieving and faces the legal system in the aftermath of this tragedy.
On September 24, Daya and Serving South Asian Survivors of Family Violence & South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) released a call to action statement. The following organizations also supported the call to action.
As organizations that provide services to South Asians in the United States, and advocate and organize on their behalf, we are deeply saddened by the recent tragic incident of domestic violence that has affected the Houston community, the South Asian community in particular.
On the morning of September 19, Mohammad Goher, a convicted batterer, shot and killed his three children while they slept in his home in Houston. The children lost their lives because Goher thought he would lose custody, and therefore took matters into his own hands. This tragic incident unfortunately demonstrates the extent to which perpetrators of abuse will go to have control over their victims, even if it means killing them.
Beyond condemning this tragedy, we as community members and organizations must recognize that each of us has a role to play in ending violence.
To begin with, we must move beyond the tendency to reduce acts of domestic violence to culture or religion, or any such characteristic. The epidemic of domestic violence affects families from all background and religious faiths. It occurs in Christian homes, Hindu homes, and Muslim homes. It does not distinguish between the rich and the poor. We must call domestic violence what it is, and work both within our community and externally, to create safe spaces and environments.
And, we must understand and empathize with the experiences of victims and survivors of domestic violence. All victims and survivors face significant barriers in seeking and obtaining assistance, justice, and support. The barriers become exacerbated for immigrants. Many South Asians hesitate to reach out within their own community for fear of being questioned, isolated, and blamed. And, still others feel that they have little recourse in existing laws, the justice system, law enforcement and social service agencies because of the lack of cultural and linguistic sensitivity or tangible legal protections.
Finally, we, as a community, must address domestic violence publicly by speaking out against violence in our homes, places of worship and cultural and social centers.
In light of the tragic incident in the Goher family, we offer three concrete steps that you can take: first, create a safe space to talk about domestic violence with your family and friends; second, encourage your religious, cultural and civic leaders to address the impact of domestic violence in public statements and sermons; and third, listen to victims who reach out to you for help and support organizations that strive to end domestic violence in our communities.
We send this call to action with the hope that community members, religious, cultural and civic organizations, policymakers, allies and media will all take on the task of ending domestic violence. For our part, we remain committed to continuing our efforts to advocate against violence in any form, to create safe spaces for dialogue, and to press for policies that support and empower victims and survivors of violence.
Daya Inc. hosted its 2010 Annual Seminar at the Hilton Southwest Hotel on September 18, from 9.00am to 2.30pm. The topic "Why Counseling?" was addressed by a distinguished panel of experts in the fields of social work/health and mental wellbeing, with speakers coming in from other cities within the United States. About one hundred from the local community attended the event that was both pertinent and informative. The seminar highlighted the benefits of counseling on mental issues, marriage, career, children, adjustment issues in the US, to name a few. Counseling, according to the experts, is not just for people with mental illnesses but anyone facing serious issues in life and in need of talking to a professional about getting advice and finding better options. The seminar also addressed the barriers and misconceptions that South Asians have about counseling.
Keynote speaker Dr. Jerry Ruhl, Ph.D, Executive Director, Jung Center, Houston, discussed Framing the issue: Why Counseling? A psychologist in private practice, Dr. Ruhl earned his doctorate developing a holistic model for coping with the trials and tribulations of life. Having observed spiritual practices in India, Japan, and Nepal, Dr. Ruhl advocates meditation in stress management and incorporates relaxation exercises in therapy sessions with clients.
"We mortgage our energy the way we mortgage our finances," Dr. Ruhl told gatherees. "In our busy lives we rarely stop and visit that quiet place within us where the mind stills and you concentrate on breathing," he added.
Part video, part live skit, Reaching In: Reaching Out was a performance on the process of counseling by the Shunya Theater group and Daya Client Services Coordinator Meghna Goswami. The skit described how clients approach Daya for succor and are heard with compassion, and given the necessary tools and resources to make crucial changes for abuse-free lives. The dramatization hinged on circumstances Daya staff often encounters; an abused woman calling the Daya hotline for advice, hope, help, and direction.
Smita Ruzicka, Office of the Dean of Students, UT, Austin, spoke on Counseling Issues - The Client Counselor Fit. A good counselor would be empathetic, compassionate, have excellent listening skills, respect confidentiality, and have some cultural understanding, she said, their services should be financially feasible. And their areas of expertise must be exemplary. Clients should look for therapists that are accessible, not a long distance away. Some clients are particular about the gender of the therapist, and others may prefer to be counseled by someone outside of their community, added Ruzicka.
Visiting freelance journalist from New York, Nisha Chhabra, offered her personal experience in Lifting the Shame. She told of the family's anguish coping with her father's bipolar disorder. She grew up dreading his sudden outbursts. The family was shunned because of her father's behavior.
A panel discussion with Daya counselor Lakshmy Parameswaran, Smita Ruzicka, Bhawna Luthra, Kirit Mehta, Nisha Chhabra, and Rabia Ilahi continued to address questions from the audience and each took turns to answer satisfactorily. Moderator for the panel discussion was Dr. Vatsala Bhaskaran, a respected psychiatrist and Daya Board Member.
The transitional home services will include individual and group counseling, child care, legal advocacy, career counseling, money management, job training and education. To protect the privacy of clients and ensure their safety, the location of Harmony House will remain confidential.
The purchase price of the home including closing costs and repairs is about $200,000. In its March 2010 fund-raising gala, Daya announced its intention to own and operate a transitional home, kicked off a capital campaign for the same and received pledges in the amount of about $55,000. Those who pledged on this occasion were individual supporters including a few board members of Daya as well as the Indo-American Charity Foundation of Houston that has been an ardent supporter of Daya since its inception in 1996.
Now that the home has become a reality, Daya plans to accelerate its capital campaign in order to raise the funds, pay off the loan and own the home outright. It is the Board's earnest hope that, as in the past, Houston's South Asian community will come forward and help Daya achieve this goal. Please call Daya's Capital Campaign Coordinator Renu Sood at 713-623-4545 for more information and participation in this worthwhile project.
Together with the Houston community, Daya is poised and ready to take this major step forward.