“I grew up in an abusive family. I saw firsthand the destruction that abuse can do, especially to children,” says Halle Berry. “I’ve always cared about women and women’s issues.”
And those women’s issues include domestic violence. For 10 years, the actress has been a supporter and fund-raiser for the Jenesse Center, an org that provides support to abused women through its domestic violence intervention program. The Los Angeles-based center was founded in 1980 by five African-American women, themselves survivors of domestic violence. The center not only provides a shelter for victims, it teaches them self-sufficiency.
“They have to take part in the programs: counseling, vocational educational and talking to lawyers,” says Berry. “The shelter is not just a safe haven. It’s a beginning for women…a chance for them to change their lives.”
Berry has had one-on-one involvement with many women who have just left their abusive partners. “I would clean them up, get them clothes and get them situated for their first night there. Sometimes I counsel them. They look at me as if I have all the answers,” says the actress. “But I’m not a therapist. I just try to be an ear, be a friend, someone who they can talk to, confide in.”
Berry vigorously fund-raises and hosts events that will bring more awareness to the Jenesse Center.
“Over the years, I’ve seen a big change in women willing to admit that they’ve been abused,” she adds. “A lot of the time, women are not really ready to leave their abuser. But Jenesse tells them, ‘You’re here. You’ve had to run here. Now is the time for you to get out of your situation.’ ”
Paulette is a woman who found herself in an abusive relationship. Then she heard about the Jenesse Center.
“My children’s dad was an alcoholic. He had been very abusive. Once, when he tried to hit me, he hit my 7-month-old baby instead. That was my turning point,” says Paulette. “Jenesse took me and my children into the emergency shelter. Then we moved to an apartment at one of the sites. I was with the program for two years. I had to learn how to be responsible, accountable. I didn’t have those things. I was all over the place. Jenesse really helped me start my life over.”
Today, Paulette is a successful property manager. “I’m able to stand out in my job,” she says. “My kids are in school. And I’m a better mom. And I can recognize a good relationship because I am in a good relationship right now.”