According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.” This number may not completely set in until you realize a person is affected and has to live with that abuse not only in that minute alone, but in every second of every day following. It is very real, and it is happening all around us to people struggling to share their stories. But when one person comes forward, others begin to feel more comfortable with sharing their own personal experience.
Yasmin Odunukwe is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy and currently teaches Cyber Security at the U.S. Naval Academy. She is a divorced mother of two that ended her cycle of physical and emotional abuse in Aug. 2015. She is a domestic violence survivor, and her story has to be heard. After visiting a therapist for a couple months at the Navy Medical Center, she was referred to Give an Hour™ (GAH).
Give an Hour is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop national networks of volunteers capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions that arise in our society. Since 2005, GAH has focused on providing free and confidential mental health care to active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members, veterans and their loved ones. By harnessing the skill and expertise of volunteer mental health professionals, GAH is able to increase the likelihood that those in need receive the support and care they deserve. In 2015, Give an Hour launched the Campaign to Change Direction, a public health effort designed to change the culture of mental health so that those who are suffering emotionally are better able to seek and receive care.
Through Give an Hour, military members, veterans and their loved ones are provided access to healthy habits to maintain mental wellness, tools to identify emotional suffering and no cost, confidential mental health services. Licensed mental health professionals offer a range of services including individual, marital and family counseling, treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse, depression, anxiety and grieving. Give an Hour’s network of professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage/family therapists, licensed professional counselors, pastoral counselors, psychiatric nurses and substance abuse counselors.
Mental Health services provided by Give an Hour are available to the clients through various options including in-person, over the phone or using HIPAA-compliant tele-health services. A visitor to Give an Hour’s website will find tips on what to expect during a session with a counselor, as well as how to choose the right counselor for you. Many people benefit from using Give an Hour’s services, including Yasmin Odunukwe.
Odunukwe decided earlier this year that she wanted to seek mental health care with a psychologist. She sought more directive counseling and was referred to Give an Hour by Navy Medical. After Odunukwe reached out to Give an Hour, she realized that she had ignored a lot of the scars that domestic violence had left on her. Odunukwe mentions that the organization’s program helped her down her “new road, post-abuse.”
One aspect that Odunukwe valued about Give an Hour was the fact that there were so many counselors available to talk to her. She built a strong relationship with one of the therapists at Give an Hour, who she would meet with for an hour each week. Her therapist discussed many different challenges with Odunukwe, including co-parenting with her ex-husband, emotional overflow and learning to share her feelings.
Shortly after entering care, the two built a strong professional relationship where Odunukwe was able to see that she was resilient and being a domestic violence survivor does not define how she is and that life, indeed, goes on. She said, “God has blessed me and my career, my kids are great” and she expressed to just keep going no matter what.
As part of her “new road, post-abuse,” Odunukwe founded the company Beauty to Grace in 2017, which is a trendy online women’s clothing brand. Her company not only shows her personal style, but is also a place which represents her values and beliefs. Odunukwe said her company is really a hobby of hers, and God lined everything up perfectly to start this new journey. On her website, she also writes blogs about beauty, domestic abuse and overcoming challenges in life.
One thing that was her biggest challenge, like most domestic violence survivors, was fear. An important piece of advice that Odunukwe gave for others struggling with domestic violence was “don’t let fear keep you in that place.” She had many fears while in her abusive relationship, including raising her children by herself or even if she could make it on her own financially. These reasons are what kept her in her relationship longer than she wanted to be. Odunukwe was able to discuss and overcome these fears through her work with her Give an Hour provider. Odunukwe said her journey has not been easy since divorcing her husband and getting a restraining order against him, but that faith has gotten her through it at every step of the way.
After her divorce, she had to fill the role of both a mother and father for about 80 percent of the time to support her household. She stresses that starting over does have its challenges, but she said, “I have learned in my start-over that we need to appreciate what we have, and not get consumed by what we do not have.”
When it came to Odunukwe’s social life and work life, some things certainly changed and some aspects luckily remained the same. She mentioned that with the Navy, she worked harder for she was not going to allow her domestic abuse to affect her job performance. With regards to her social life, Odunukwe said despite having to distance herself from a good friend of hers, she has also been able to strengthen other relationships in sharing her story.
When discussing some of her experiences with others, she mentioned being in the Navy sometimes made her hesitant to speak up about domestic violence. Odunukwe realized, however, that once she started speaking up and sharing her story with others, they heard her out, reciprocated and sometimes shared their own story of domestic violence. Through these conversations, she was able to find strength and was able to show herself that she can make a difference in the lives of others.
Odunukwe is grateful for Give an Hour and said there are so many counselors ready to assist anyone who needs help. She values the relationship that she has built with her provider and enjoys that they are able to still keep in touch – it shows that Give an Hour is accommodating to their clients receiving care from their network.
It is stories like Yasmin Odunukwe’s which allow others to speak up and share their experience or to seek help through organizations like Give an Hour. Give an Hour is there to support military service members, veterans, their loved ones and their communities with free, unlimited mental health services – Yasmin Odunukwe is just one success story of many. If you are seeking help, visit GiveanHour.org/get-help to learn more about how to get in contact with a provider and receive the care you deserve.