Domestic violence is a pandemic silently sweeping the United States and other countries worldwide. Its victims are growing in number, yet only a fraction of women are able to take the brave step toward escaping their abuse before it’s too late. Brooke Jones, a survivor of abuse herself, founded her organization Stronger than Espresso to help bring awareness to domestic violence worldwide. She speaks with us today about her escape from abuse and how she plans to help rescue women in similar situations.
4word: Tell us about your organization Stronger Than Espresso. What led you to found it?
Brooke: I am a woman, a mother, a wife, an educator and a survivor of abuse. Years ago, I lived in a beachfront home surrounded by beauty and affluence. We also had multiple homes and a yacht. By all accounts, we were living the dream. Yet I lived in constant fear of the next outburst. If anyone has seen the movie Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts, you might have some idea as to how my life went. Immediately after getting married, he suggested we move away to spend more time together. To do this, I had to leave my life, quit my six-figure career, and leave family and friends behind. Once I was isolated, I now became subjected to something I had not seen while we were dating. Wild mood swings and machine gun spray of verbal assaults became more and more the norm. I was an educated, independent woman – so why didn’t I just leave?
In a sentence… the violence began like a low boil and escalated over time when he strategically put up blockades to keep me from leaving. He would threaten his children’s safety and my safety. He would sell my car at a moment’s notice. He would clear out the bank accounts and keep me from our finances. He would break my things, threaten me, or threaten to injure my pets. These verbal insults and destructive words played havoc in my mind, leaving me swirling, sleepless, and living with one eye always open. Life revolved around making sure everything in the home was perfect … every piece of silverware was perfectly stacked and every cabinet was straight. One out of place tupperware bowl could incite screaming and destruction. And when he would say he was traveling or running an errand on his own, I would feel a sense of relief, but then would find him waiting outside or hidden in the bushes with cameras watching what I did when he was gone.
No matter how beautiful our view and our home was … it couldn’t fix the pain behind our locked doors. One night, he thought I was planning to leave him. He beat me up, took my glasses so I couldn’t see, stole my phone, and held me hostage, locked in a corner overnight. When he went into the bathroom to shower, I escaped and ran down the street screaming for help. I was able to get a taxi to drive me to the emergency room. At the hospital, a police officer told me about domestic violence, but I didn’t understand. I was too scared to speak out and have him arrested for fear for my own life or his children.
I was able to file for a divorce, and you would think my story was over. When I tried to leave, he attempted to hire someone to kill me and violated restraining orders dozens of times. One police detective told me, “Get a gun, learn how to use it. He’s going to kill you.” The terror, the running, the destruction to my safety went on for two years as he tracked my daily movements.
To escape the tyranny of this madness, I left everything behind. That was the price of getting my life back. And today I am using my story to help other women find freedom. Domestic violence knows no social, economic, or cultural distinctions. It has no boundaries including life itself. In my story, I became a statistic.
The name Stronger than Espresso was birthed from a God-whisper in my ear in 2006. At that time, God purposed me to help women impacted by abuse by sharing with them how much Christ loves them. Espresso is the strongest type of coffee you can create and is the key ingredient for many other coffee drinks. When we invite someone to coffee, it is not just a beverage, but it is an invitation for a conversation. We create invitations built on Christ, a key ingredient to make women stronger and develop stronger love for themselves. A stronger walk with Christ. Stronger women means stronger moms and stronger families.
It began first as my own story – a testimony in 2006, but over the years it took a different form. In 2012, I published all of my training materials for participants and leaders and began teaching classes in February 2013. In just three years, Stronger than Espresso has transformed into a domestic violence ministry solution. And now we have an innovative program equipping churches and communities with an effective lay-led ministry for domestic abuse survivors. We have trained over 250 women in the United States and internationally, and we have over 70 trained Stronger than Espresso leaders. We are in Texas now and looking to grow nationally. We just completed our ‘kit in a box’ formatting, and our ministry is now easy to purchase and replicate in communities and churches in any city.
Internationally, we launched in India last year with our train-the-trainer conference, and we equipped almost 60 women to lead Stronger than Espresso programs in Northern India. This summer, we will train over 220 new leaders in India in our 2nd annual conference in three locations to bring the Stronger than Espresso program to even more women. In September 2015, we are hosting a train-the trainer conference in Nairobi, Kenya, and will train 200 women to lead Stronger than Espresso ministries in their local communities. We will launch Stronger than Espresso in Moldova in 2016 and are beginning to work on a Spanish translation this fall. We are overwhelmed at the growth and blessings we have received.
Up until now, we have achieved all of these efforts with 100% volunteer efforts. Our goal in 2015 is to bring the right founding partners to help us bring on staff and grow even more nationally and internationally. We believe that there is tremendous need for this in our communities, and we are positioned to provide an affordable solution to help.
4word: How great is the need for organizations like yours?
Brooke: The need is great. 1 in 4 women are impacted by domestic violence in the USA. That is approximately 40-50 million women. 40 million is equivalent to the population of California. Visualize 1 in 4 women for just a moment. That is 1 in 4 women when you are in the grocery store, when you drive down the road, in your neighborhood, in your church. Numerous sources agree numbers are higher, because many incidents are never reported because of shame and fear.
Internationally, there is much debate, and numbers are much harder to verify. Estimates are 1 in 2 for women internationally. If that number is accurate, there are 1.6 billion women impacted. 1.6 billion is equivalent to five Americas.
These are our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and granddaughters. This pandemic is called Domestic Violence. For many of us, domestic violence is hidden or happens to other people, but it knows no boundaries, it crosses all cultures, countries, and social economic areas. We lock our doors to our homes to keep us safe from people who would hurt us from the outside. What then do we say to the mom with two little kids and too little money when the person hurting her is living locked right in the same home?
Every minute there are 20 new victims of domestic violence per the CDC stats 2014. That is over 28,000 new victims per day.
Dallas Morning News ran the Deadly Affection series last year where they reported all deaths in 2014 related directly to domestic violence. Last year in Dallas, 39 women, men, and children died from domestic violence. Ten of those were in Collin County. Those deaths are just a tip of the iceberg of victims and survivors.
Don’t forgot the legacy impact and generational cycle of abuse. 10 million kids per year witness abuse. Kids are watching this happen in their homes, and they are repeating it as they grow up. Currently, 85% of the women we serve have children. 100% of adult daughters of these women have been or are in an abusive relationship. We need to break this generational cycle of abuse.
4word: How does Stronger Than Espresso impact the victims of domestic violence? What services do you offer?
Brooke: We are effective in helping women wherever they are in their journey to freedom, whether she is in crisis, transition, or moved on to where she is wearing the mask that she is okay but still struggling emotionally from the impact of abuse. We provide a unique role by connecting the woman, existing community services, and the church together in a complementary relationship. The church is compassionate to the issue of domestic violence, but by its very nature as a crime, it remains hidden in our communities and within our churches.
- We Interrupt – 24 hr chat line, word of mouth, PSAs
- We Connect – chat line, mentor volunteers, face-to-face
- We Educate – training in our 15-week classes
- We Community – sisterhood, mentor volunteers giving back
By training lay leaders, we help them become a powerful resource for the small, medium, and large churches to reach these women in their community and congregations. We activate and train women in the church who have a heart to minister to other women. Our training ensures safety is a first priority.
4word: What are some warning signs of domestic abuse that our readers can be on the lookout for, both personally and in the lives of their loved ones?
Brooke: We have a lot of information like this on our website.
I think my FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER is in an abusive relationship.
The worst thing to do is to pretend it is not happening. Ignoring abuse will NOT make it go away. If you suspect abuse is occurring, you are probably right. Abuse is often hidden, especially from those we love the most. It is hidden because of the victim’s shame and fear of the abuser intensifying the abuse.
Review Types of Abuse list to identify warning behaviors.
If you hear or see things like: unexplained bruises, falls/stories that don’t make sense, minimizing someone else’s cruel behavior, unexplained isolation or withdrawing from relationships, extreme weight loss/gain, hyper-anxiety, hyper-perfectionism, a woman who is not able to comprehend that she can say “No” can be signs abuse is present in the home. When they describe their relationships with words like, “I am walking on eggshells, I feel hollow, I don’t know what else to do, it’s just another bad day,” I am very concerned abuse is present.
Take “Signs of an abuser” evaluation to look for similarities.
- Ask them if they are being abused. If they say no, ask them to take the evaluation “Are you being abused?” to see if they still agree.
- Check in on them often. Make sure they have your number and know you are a safe place.
- Ask – Ask if help is needed for mundane tasks, errands, or just to lend a hand.
- Empower – Aide in establishing routines to bring life back into control.
- Listen – When ready, let the survivor talk about the experience to acknowledge, validate, and reduce isolation.
- Reassure – Affirm that they are not to blame for abuse and are not alone.
- Research – Offer help finding answers and resources.
- Support with Patience – There is not pre-determined healing timeline.
4word: How can someone in need of Stronger Than Espresso start getting the help they need?
Brooke: If someone wants to learn more about our services or attend one of our classes, they should contact our office via email at email@example.com, call 469-307-8488, or visit our website for more information. Our website www.strongerthanespresso.com has a number of self-evaluations anyone can take, downloadable information about abuse and relationships, and hundreds of resources that can provide more help today for anyone in need.
If someone is in danger, they should call 9-1-1 or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit http://www.thehotline.org/ for immediate help.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Brooke: What gets me out of bed every morning is knowing there are so many women to help. We are striving to reach 1,000,000 this year and grow from there. Just imagine unassuming armies of Christian women in every community, every state, every nation helping other women impacted by violence. If it took you 5 minutes to read this article, we already have 100 new victims of domestic violence in the US. I pray for the day we can help them all.
We know that women are not the only victims of abuse. Men call us often looking for solutions that can help. We are very compassionate to the men who are being abused in our communities and within our churches. At this time, Stronger than Espresso is not equipped with a program for men, but it is a part of our future growth and development of new programs.
Have Brooke’s words inspired you to get involved in helping women enslaved by domestic violence? Do you recognize warning signs of abuse either in your own life or in the life of someone close to you? Take action and use Brooke’s advice to taking the next step in your journey!
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Brooke Jones is the CEO and Founder of the Stronger than Espresso program. Brooke is wife to Rick, mom of two young kids, and launched this ministry after her own survival story from domestic violence and aggravated stalking. Stronger than Espresso launched in the Dallas metro area is 2013 and has grown. This summer, Stronger than Espresso will conduct their second international leadership training in India to equip women in that country to lead their own Stronger than Espresso ministry. This ministry is launching in Kenya and Moldova in 2015. Brooke is a national and international speaker on topics of domestic violence and human trafficking. Brooke has worked as a corporate trainer and curriculum design consultant, teaches Human Resource courses as adjunct faculty for UMUC and a Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader.