HOUSTON – A new non-profit organization opened its doors in May and is working to reach more survivors of domestic violence in Houston’s minority communities. The Empowered Survivor began as a pilot project with 35 survivors and in three months time grew to more than 300 clients.
“What we’ve always known is minorities are disproportionally impacted by domestic violence,” said Carvana Cloud.
Cloud is the former head of the Harris County District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau. She is now the founder and Executive Director of The Empowered Survivor.
“This whole initiative started with me wanting to provide services to women of color specifically,” said Cloud.
According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than 40% of black women experience physical violence by an intimate partner compared to 31% of all women. Cloud said for many of these survivors, help is not so easily obtained.
“I understand people don’t have access to transportation or they don’t feel comfortable leaving their communities,” said Cloud.
She also said a historical distrust of police prevents some in the minority community from seeking help.
“Most of the people didn’t even know that help existed or how to get the help outside the police agencies,” said Cloud.
This is why Cloud said she is focusing her efforts in three areas — Acres Homes, Inwood and Greenspoint.
“(I) set up at churches, resource tables at fairs, we go to different stores like the Family Dollar store, the Dollar General,” said Cloud.
According to city of Houston data, these areas average 41% African American and 48% Latino populations. These are also neighborhoods where between 26% and 46% of households earn less than $25,0000 a year.
“A lot of the folks that we’re helping right now are below the poverty level and they can’t really pull themselves up alone,” said Cloud.
Financial instability helps abusers keep their partners trapped.
“Abusers use their power kind of like when animals hunt. A cheetah doesn’t hunt another cheetah. It hunts something weaker than them,” one survivor told KPRC 2.
After five years of abuse, this woman finally broke free from her abuser and Cloud’s organization found a safe place for her and her four children to live and helped her get a protective order.
“From a sandal to a burger, (Cloud) going to get it done,” she said.
We heard a similar story from another woman.
“I was actually shot at 7 times,” this woman said. The abuse was so bad that she said she had to flee to Houston from New Orleans with her sons.
“I mean I just got in the car, me and my two sons, I just left and came out here,” she said. Since she didn’t know anyone in Houston and was running out of options, Cloud’s organization provided her with the basics.
“Providing us with food, clothing and shelter,” she said.
Coby Brandon escaped a 10-year abusive relationship and he said Cloud helped get him a job, which brought stability to his life.
“It settled my mind and mental stability is great,” Brandon said. “I can’t do that without having a foundation, I have nowhere to lay my head and she was able to get me an immediate house.”
Cloud’s organization works to rebuild lives, helping survivors access legal services, food, clothing, housing, mental health, jobs and education.
“Education is the great equalizer and we know that when people don’t have education, they cannot get really good-paying jobs that allow them to take care of their families,” Cloud said.
She herself grew up in Acres Homes and experienced domestic violence as a child. Cloud said she shares that experience with survivors to gain their the trust and let them know a better life is possible.
“They say, ‘You went to law school, you lived over there, you used to live in the hood, OK, I can trust her, she knows what I am going through,‘” Cloud said.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by using the discreet online chat function on its website or by calling 1−800−799−7233.
What is Stronger Houston?
As Houston’s first television station and after more than 70 years of broadcasting, KPRC continues to work to serve our community. In our series “Stronger Houston,” we examine issues impacting people inequitably by race, gender, income, age, geography, religion, and other factors. These fault lines can create unfair divides in our community. We strive to not only raise awareness but also focus on solutions, resources available, and the people and groups working to reduce the disparity and ultimately create a stronger Houston.