How a California-based non-profit is helping survivors of domestic violence

Ritu Jha–

The 31st annual gala of Narika, a non-profit organization that focuses on working with survivors of domestic violence and helping them achieve a life of dignity with economic and financial independence, was recently held in San Jose, California.

At the gala, Narika expressed appreciation to its supporters and benefactors and also launched a fundraiser on September 10. The non-profit was founded in 1992 by a group of immigrant women to help survivors of domestic violence in the local communities of the Bay Area.

Based in Fremont, CA, Narika is active in Alameda, Contra Costa counties, and the South Bay Area. Marking a new chapter in the organization’s history, Sanjay Singh, became the first man to don the mantel of the president of Narika’s board of directors. “The gala was a huge success,” he told indica. “We had a packed house, and we raised over $300,000.”

Singh is a business and technology leader who has held various organizational leadership roles in Informix, Sybase, and IBM.

He said, “The number of people seeking our help has grown dramatically. It is both a reflection of our deepening and expanding services as well as an increase in reporting of such cases.”

“Domestic violence cases increased during the pandemic period. We registered a 300% rise in the number of cases being reported at that time. Since 2020, thanks to greater awareness, the number of calls to our helpline has also gone up.”

He said the important aspect of their outreach is that the community has steadfastly stood behind the cause. “Every year more and more people know about what we do, directly relate to the cause,” said Singh. “But still a lot of people don’t.”

He added, “It has been challenging for us because the numbers are high and there are looming cuts in our grants lineup. Even the small company and corporation funding has dried up this year because of the tech industry downturn.”

The $300,000 collected at the fundraiser may come as some relief for Narika.

Singh said some of the experiences of survivors are shocking. “We get a lot of cases where the perpetrators use phone trackers to spy on what the survivor is doing or who she is talking to – is it family members or someone else.”

He said age is hardly a factor. Perpetrators are across all age groups, including middle-aged and senior men. “Many people who come from India. In many cases, they found a way to leave their wives back in India. Transnational abandonment is on the rise and it is a significant issue. We need education as well as policy-level changes. Not to mention collaboration at both federal and state levels.”

To help survivors, Narika has set up a transitional home. The organization helps them regain their confidence and economic independence.“ Sometimes they don’t even know whom to call for help because a lot of these survivors are in the immigration phase where there is a sense of fear that if they report any kind of physical violence, then their family, kids may get deported. They have all kinds of questions and apprehensions because they are not familiar with the laws here.”

Once survivors muster the courage and means to contact the organization, Narika then guides them and connects them with the resources available. “We also evaluate their needs to provide legal help, vocational training, child support, or other aids. We support them until they are ready to stand on their own feet. Sometimes we work with the supporters for two, or three years, whatever time it takes for them to feel independent again,” Singh added.

“Emotional support is fundamental to the help that Narika extends to the survivors because they want to talk about their experiences and fears with someone to whom they can relate, somebody who can understand and empathize with them.”

To help the traumatized survivors find their footing, Narika’s transitional home which started earlier this year plays a key role. Singh said that they would love to house more families and are looking for funding streams to expand the transitional home program, however, at present the transitional home can hold two only families.

Setting up the transitional home was a big step for Narika believes Singh. “Now that we have the transitional home, our advocates feel more confident. We would like to continue expanding this because it is the backbone of Narika. These services are important to tackle the issue of homelessness which is a critical area that impacts Domestic Violence.”

Narika’s SEED program, which is one of the longest running job training, educational and empowerment program, offers free classes to empower the survivors with computer education, financial education, resume development, and interview skills. Each year 150- 200 survivors attend these classes. “When the clients are past the initial fear and emergency, then they want to stand on their feet and that takes months. We offer a 360-degree program – job training, interviews, resume preparation, and regular follow-ups by our case manager. Our goal is to ensure that they are emotionally and financially independent when they walk out of here,” he said.

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