The Butterfly Society continues work beyond domestic violence awareness month
Twahna P. Harris experienced firsthand the dangers and the reality of physical, mental, and sexual abuse from a previous partner, then channeled those traumatic experiences into triumph.
Twahna P. Harris, founder and executive director of The Butterfly Society, experienced firsthand the dangers and the reality of physical, mental, and sexual abuse from a previous partner during her college years. She channeled those traumatic experiences into triumph with the creation of a 501c3 nonprofit.
Despite doubtful thoughts and urges to return, Harris left her situation and pursued other forms of expression and relief like writing. One day, after reading all the thoughts she had written in her journal and reflecting on her experience, Harris knew she needed to do more and not only share her story with others but also help others. She discovered that there was purpose in the darkness that had stolen so much from her.
Founded in 2014 and based in Baton Rouge, La., The Butterfly Society provides resources and services aimed toward eliminating domestic violence. With a mission focused on education, advocacy, collaborations with other corporations, and the ability to give those in need impactful help and aid, The Butterfly Society works to connect with others and bring awareness to this nationwide issue through its efforts.
According to the most recent data from the Violence Policy Center, Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation among states where women are more likely to be murdered by men. With that alarming statistic in mind, the organization doesn’t limit its work to those in Baton Rouge but is willing to educate and assist anyone in the state, keeping in mind the problem’s severity and spread.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said 2021 was the worst year ever for domestic and dating violence-related homicides in the parish. Harris said the need is great, and the work The Butterfly Society is doing is making a tremendous impact in the community.
“We’re in crisis mode when we speak of domestic violence, not only in the city of Baton Rouge, not only in the state of Louisiana, but across the country, where women and men are losing their lives every day,” she said.
Harris said securing funding is key to making sure victims can safely leave dangerous situations, and it remains an ongoing and daunting task. The group helps survivors with housing, transportation, and other expenses and currently has a need for both additional dollars and volunteers.
During October, which is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the organization hosted various events centered on bringing an end to domestic violence. Harris and other participants have continued the theme, “Painting The City Purple,” for eight years during this month.
This year’s events and programs began with the September “Purple Affair Gala.” Then, on October 9th, the group hosted “A Call to Men,” in Tony Clayton Championship Plaza on the Southern University Baton Rouge Campus. A program within the organization since its founding, it gave men an opportunity to be a part of the conversation in finding solutions to end domestic violence, empowering them to become change agents in their community and to play a vital role in the movement.
Other events in October included a “Women’s Night of Empowerment: Who Am I,” with a focus on helping women look inward and understand their life’s purpose.
For “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: A Night of Remembrance,” the organization and community members gathered at Rhorer Plaza in Baton Rouge to remember the lives that were lost the previous year due to domestic violence. 36 pairs of shoes were placed on the steps of the stage, representing the men and women killed in East Baton Rouge parish.
Through a “Conversation with the Judges”, The Butterfly Society partnered with a Southern University Divorce and Domestic Violence Law clinic that took place at the River Branch Library, where community members were asked to join the conversation on finding solutions and common ground. Another event that the nonprofit partnered with Southern University to put on was “Domestic Violence 101: The Impact,” where people came together to talk about the influence of domestic violence in neighborhoods and communities.
With its middle school, high school, and college curriculum, “Love is Kind, Love is Respect, Love is not Abuse,” the nonprofit’s members visit different schools, discussing matters surrounding dating abuse, healthy relationships, personal boundaries, and self-love. The organization also takes part in faith-based initiatives, spreading the word about prevention and awareness, which Harris says can be an uncommon topic in these settings.
Harris said she received insightful and positive feedback from these events and even responses that involved a call to action. She said the work will go on long after the month of October has ended.
“I do believe with all my heart that the community is ready to have this conversation,” Harris said. “We’re always encouraged to do this work because the community has an appreciation for it.”
By Lena Foster
Special to The Drum
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