Two out of five South Asian women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Sakhi fields about 2,000 calls a year on it’s helpline and over the course of its 25-year history,has worked with over 10,000 survivors of violence. As a result of their experiences of domestic violence, many women that Sakhi serves may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, engage in defensive avoidance, and suffer the physical and mental health impacts of unaddressed trauma such as fatigue and depression. Nearly all of the women Sakhi currently serves are experiencing some form of mental or physical health issue – ranging from seizures resulting from physical abuse, to broken bones, to eating disorders, to depression and suicidal ideation. When Sakhi investigated the causes of why some women do not complete their training programs or other skills-building workshops provided by our Economic Empowerment program, we found that mental health issues accounted for 90% of women failing to complete their programs. Failure to address these issues presents a huge barrier to accessing resources, developing skills to promote self-sufficiency, and effecting true transformation – where the women we serve feel whole, hopeful, and confident.
Culturally specific and linguistically appropriate mental and physical health services can have both short-term and long-term wellness outcomes for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence by promoting safety, connections to community resources, healthy relationships, and emotional healing. Sakhi has piloted weekly counseling sessions for survivors of domestic violence that were facilitated by two psychologists who provided culturally competent services pro bono. The early results of that program are that the women who attended felt increased resilience, and confidence in their abilities to heal and achieve a better life for themselves and their families. The two culturally competent psychologists provided services for these group counseling sessions pro bono, and their assessment of the impact of this pilot is that it can be hugely transformational. Sakhi is striving to develop the infrastructure to continue to promote these services because the need for this work is huge both in terms of demand, and also in terms of the potential positive impact that can result.