After receiving her B.A. Degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, Becky Lee continued on to receive her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Interested in the prevention of intimate partner violence, Ms. Lee has been working on issues concerning survivors over the last twenty years as an advocate, a kickboxing instructor, a policy associate and an attorney.
Becky Lee is the Executive Director of Becky’s Fund, a national non-profit organization committed to addressing and preventing the occurrence of intimate partner violence through advocacy, research and support for survivors. When she was given the opportunity to try out for Survivor: Cook Islands during the summer of 2006, Ms. Lee decided to go for it because she wanted to break media stereotypes of Asian Americans and bring awareness to the prevalence of intimate partner violence. After coming in third, Ms. Lee took much of her 3rdplace winnings to create the non-profit organization, Becky‘s Fund, (www.beckysfund.org) due to seeing the lack of attention given to addressing the issue of violence prevention and education. Even though she has never personally experienced domestic violence, she wanted to show people by example how important it is to work on intimate partner violence as it affects 1 in 3 women in the United States, calling the organization Becky’s Fund to stress how each person can make a difference in our community on this issue.
Becky’s Fund is a 501c(3) public charity focused on the prevention of intimate partner violence and providing post-incident support for survivors and their families. Did you know that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are affected by intimate partner violence?The Fund’s mission is unique in its focus on educating an under-served market – young people, professionals, and men while working to end and prevent this violence. Our innovative workshops, survivor independence courses, and outreach programs have earned us national recognition by the Office of Violence Against Women, Vice President Joe Biden, and was highlighted on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Tell us about Becky’s Fund:
The prevention-based mission of Becky‘s Fund is to foster awareness of intimate partner violence, encourage advocacy among peers, promote activism through outreach programs, and create support for victims. Intimate partner violence can happen to anyone, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or age. Because 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will face intimate partner violence during her/his lifetime, Becky‘s Fund openly addresses this issue to tackle it and find ways to help those who are struggling with it find safety for themselves and their children.
Becky‘s Fund executes its outreach strategy through national public relations and media campaigns, using radio, print, and television public service announcements. It leverages education, Web 2.0 technology, and cutting-edge resources to enable critical one-to-one connections between victims and survivors. These crucial resources take aim at the heart of damaging social beliefs that perpetuate a cycle of struggle and abuse among so many people in our community. Through our website (www.beckysfund.org), networking, and events, Becky‘s Fund also connects donors with the specific needs of abuse victims.
On an everyday basis, we are working to educate and prevent intimate partner violence from continuing. We use social media such as twitter, facebook and the website every day to create dialogue about the assumptions and beliefs that people have about what causes intimate partner violence and how people can get involved to fight against intimate partner violence.
We create and execute events to create awareness of this issue while raising money to fund programs and help assist victims with their different needs ranging from economical, legal, and advocacy areas.
What inspired you to start Becky’s Fund?
While a junior at the University of Michigan, I heard an extraordinary woman and lawyer, Andrea Lyon, deliver a horrific story that would change my life and the lives of many others to come. She described how a woman was dragged down the street by her husband with her intestines hanging out, after being slashed several times. No one ever reached out to help her. After hearing that 1 in 3 women are affected by intimate partner violence and story after story about women who suffer in prison after killing their abusers in self-defense from intimate partner violence, I could not sit still and do nothing.
This is why I initially went to law school, then tried out for the reality show Survivor, and lastly created my own non-profit – all to raise awareness for the epidemic of intimate partner violence in America and to create public and tangible support for these victims of abuse. I have seen so many women hide their pain and bruises because they are afraid of being blamed all over again for the abuse. There is a problem in our society when we continue to ask “Why doesn’t she leave,” when the question should be “Why does he keep getting away with abusing her?” I have always been outraged by the lack of community support to help abused women find safety from their batterers, just as I was shocked by the response of millions of teens in America blaming Rihanna for the abuse from Chris Brown several years ago.
It is often up to people who have not been personally affected by intimate partner violence to stand up and speak out for the silenced victims who cannot. Because I do not have a personal story to relate, I am able to speak out about this issue so openly. I am not stigmatized by cultural judgment and other barriers such as fear of being blamed and shame in coming forward to ask for help. After working on this issue as an advocate and attorney for over 20 years, I dedicated my career to develop a multi-faceted approach that addresses social, cultural and legal barriers that trap victims and started my own organization 10 years ago with the proceeds I made from winning third place on the reality show, Survivor.
What are some challenges that victims of domestic violence may face that keep them from finding help?
When people ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?”, they fail to understand the multi-faceted barriers that keep domestic abuse survivors from seeking help. In fact, leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time for a survivor. Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship. Especially now, financial abuse is becoming more common in domestic violence relationships. Usually, the abuser will have access to passwords and account information. Often times, the abuser has sole access to passports, passwords, credit cards, cash, and immigration papers. With no sense of financial control, the survivor often has no money or means of support if she/he leaves the relationship.
We also live in a culture where violence is normalized from such an early age. If a boy pushes a little girl down on the playground, she’s told that he’s doing it because he likes her. In addition, if the survivor grows up in a violent home, she/he probably believe that hitting is a way of expressing love and the violence often becomes normalized behavior. Abusers also emotionally and mentally abuse their victims so that they believe that they do not deserve a life any better. Because of this, they might believe that they won’t be loved by anyone else and that the abuser is the best partner they will find. Abusers maintain a sense of power and control over their victims by isolating them from their friends and family. With no support system, the survivor would not have anyone to turn to if they attempted to leave the relationship. Finally, it’s important to understand that in these type of relationships, the survivor might still have love for her/his partner. These relationships generally don’t start out abusive. There’s a honeymoon phase that will be interrupted by tension building and eventually a violent blow up. The cycle repeats but the survivor might hold onto the positive qualities she/her sees in her/his partner. When this couple has children together, it can be even more difficult to leave the abuser she/her loves.
What are some ways that Becky’s Fund raises awareness for domestic violence?
Many awareness initiatives focus mainly on girls and women, but fails to bring boys and men into the conversation. Our Men of Code program works with young male athletes and coaches to help them become better leaders and allies in the movement to end violence against girls and women. The program includes workshops and seminars on leadership, masculinity, consent, dating violence, and empowers them to bring these same skills and knowledge to the outside world to help end violence against women. To help raise funds for our Men of Code program, we created Walk This Way, our annual fashion charity event. This event has raised thousands of dollars for our charity to help end intimate partner violence. Last year, about 700 local Washingtonians, pro athletes, and notables came together to help raise awareness for our organization at the Italian Embassy.
We also have our Becoming Your Own Heroine program, which is a workshop for girls aged 8-18 to train and educate them on dating violence, self-defense, and artistic expression. We create an open, safe environment where girls can engage in dialogues that they might not have been able to create with their teachers or parents. The girls learn about gender identity, consent, dating violence, sexual violence, healthy and abusive relationships, and bystander intervention. Our goal for this program is to train these girls on various ways to prevent intimate partner violence and empower them to live successful, confident lives.
Tell us about your upcoming event, Take a Stand, Make a Splash:
Take a Stand, Make a Splash is our second annual swimsuit fashion show that works to end and prevent intimate partner violence. Instead of using traditional models, our models are female athletes or fitness personalities from the DC area to highlight the strength and diversity of the female body. To celebrate the strength and diversity of women’s bodies as well as honor the ground-breaking achievements that women continue to accomplish, the theme of this year’s fashion show is freedom. Proceeds from this event will go to Becky’s Fund.
For more information, visit our event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/630780120432552/
To buy tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/take-a-stand-make-a-splash-2016-tickets-26445416954
What can Lady Code readers do in their communities to get involved?
The best way to get involved is to find local organizations near you that need help with volunteering or advocacy in helping achieve the mission to end intimate partner violence. This could look like passing out flyers, bringing awareness to an upcoming event, or even volunteering at a hotline center. However, there are other actions we can take in our daily life to make a difference without volunteering to an organization. First and foremost, if a survivor confides in you, start by believing them. Do not judge that person or question as to why she/he stayed. Believe her/his story and lead her/him to resources so she/he can rebuild her/his life. Also, speak up. If you see someone being abused, get involved by confronting the situation, creating a distraction which will allow the survivor to return to safety, or directly contact the authorities with the survivor’s permission.
How can victims get in touch with Becky’s fund?
If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence you can visit our website at www.beckysfund.org and visit our “Get Help” and “Resources” page that will give you all the information you need on creating a safety plan.