No More Tears: Saving Victims of Domestic Violence
Posted on November 01, 2012, by Louisa Mardirossian, Half the Sky Movement
After a career as a Bollywood actress and training at a series of universities in the U.S. for journalism and filmmaking, Somy Ali settled into Miami. In 2007, her neighbor — a woman from Bangladesh who had been raped by her father-in-law and consistently beaten by her husband — knocked on her door and reached out to her for help. Somy invited her in and took a stand.
Somy Ali (middle) with a No More Tears survivor and child.
The former actress started by allocating a small portion of her savings to help her neighbor get a divorce, a new apartment and enrollment in nursing school. She reflects on her transition into social work, saying, “I think being innovative and creative is amazing and phenomenal but wasn’t quenching my thirst. Even as a kid in Pakistan, I wanted to help people. I remember I would bring little refugee girls from Afghanistan to my house, and ask my dad why they were living on the street… I’ve always wanted to be able to fix things that are broken.”
Somy founded the non-profit No More Tears in 2007 and it was up and running by 2008. The mission of the organization is to provide survivors of domestic abuse with individualized assistance. Since its launch, the program has assisted 231 women and 519 children nationwide.
No More Tears survivor receiving an award for nursing.
In 2009, while still figuring out the approach of No More Tears, Somy picked up a copy of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. She says, “The focus and mission [of No More Tears] to empower women has been largely influenced by Half the Sky.”
Somy personally funded the NGO in its first years, but after her savings ran out last year, she started reaching out to donors for help. No More Tears now runs on private donations that range from $20 to $20,000.
Reaching out to women in need initially proved difficult. The victims that Somy helps are primarily immigrants brought to the U.S. through arranged marriages. They rarely have a strong grasp of the English language or networks of friends and family that can help them.
Once Somy learned that many victims of domestic abuse feel trapped by their abusers, she started getting crafty. She made brochures in several different languages, and strategically placed them in small grocery stores, women’s restrooms, segregated mosques and doctors’ waiting rooms. “I thought of the places that men wouldn’t go, or would get bored. I disguised [the brochures] as things like make-up pamphlets, so that even if the men saw them, they wouldn’t bother opening them,” Somy says.
Somy at a baby shower organized by No More Tears for a survivor of domestic violence.
No More Tears prides itself in its unique approach to care. Unlike many other organizations, there are no waiting lists. Somy, along with her team of volunteers, personally starts a dialogue with each individual who reaches out to them. Rather than directing the victims to shelters, Somy initially sets them up for five days in a hotel. She has partnered with 17 different hotels that give her organization discounted rates when they reserve rooms for survivors of domestic violence. “I don’t like the stigma that’s attached to shelters,” she says. “I think that every victim deserves privacy and space.”
From that point on, Somy mentors these women and children as they begin their new life. By the end of their hotel stay, she finds inexpensive apartments for the survivors and covers their rent for up to two months. During this time, she helps the women find jobs and become self-sufficient.
“We receive a lot of laptops and appliances through donations which we give to the women," Somy says. "We set them up in an apartment — which the volunteers and I decorate. We take them to movies and out to dinners — we really get to know them. We want them to feel like they’re a part of the family.”
Somy and a No More Tears volunteer helping a survivor move into her new home.
In addition to the hotels, Somy has established relationships with attorneys, therapists, OB-GYNs, hospitals, dentists and pastors among other individuals and organizations across the country. For the women in No More Tears, select professionals are offering their services for discounted rates.
“Abuse has no prejudice; it’s tough to be a woman anywhere in the world. To be a woman period,” Somy says. "Domestic violence won’t be eliminated but better to try, and to take action.”
For more information on Somy Ali and No More Tears, visit the No More Tears Official Website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
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