The Other City

“Movie nights” are a regular occurrence in our Cornerstone Program, but the film we screened on March 6th was different.  We had the exciting opportunity to screen The Other City, a limited release documentary about HIV/AIDS in Washington, DC.  The film told the stories of three people living with HIV, including J’Mia Edwards, an HIV+ mother of three about to lose her temporary housing.  J’Mia, who has now achieved permanent housing and works with Metro TeenAIDS, attended our screening and met with our residents.

Although DASH doesn’t have a direct focus on HIV/AIDS, we know that intimate-partner violence and HIV are closely linked.  Women who have experienced intimate partner violence are three-times more likely than non-abused women to have HIV.  The relationship is two-fold: intimate partner violence increases a woman’s risk of contracting HIV, and HIV increases a woman’s risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.  There’s a stereotypical ideas that the solution to the HIV epidemic is as easy as handing out condoms, but what if, as J’Mia Edwards asks in the film; “your partner is going to give you a black eye for asking him to wear one?” For too many women, violence is a more immediate threat than possibly contracting HIV or an STI.

J’Mia also stated many times in the film the importance of safe housing, and the role of safe housing in HIV prevention. The event highlighted the links between domestic violence, HIV, and homelessness.

We know that domestic violence exists across all demographics; a certain socioeconomic status or sexual orientation cannot protect against it. However, for low-income women, the effects of intimate partner violence can be more apparent and more devastating.  According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, 92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse.  About 25% of homeless women report domestic violence as the direct cause of their homeless; according to other studies, it’s the cause at least half of the time.

In order to exert more power and control over their victims, abusers commonly also limit their available sources of financial and emotional support.  An abuser might take their victim’s existing money and prevent them from getting a job.  Many survivors come out of relationships with poor or non-existent credit, rental, and employment history.  It’s also typical for a survivor to lack close bonds with family and friends.  With no money and no friends, a high percentage of victims stay in abusive relationships simply because they have no other place to go. Abusers may also use a victim’s positive HIV status to convince them that no one else could love them; conversely, they could block the victim from receiving medical attention, or from getting tested in the first place.

At DASH, we provide housing and victim services, as well as  hope to increase understanding in the community.  In DC, the effects of all three can be seen all around but are too often ignored.  Organizations like ours are key in increasing the visibility of “the other city.”

Intern Profile Part 4: Molly Driessen

Molly Driessen is one of four graduate interns currently working with DASH. She’s originally from Rosemount, Minnesota, and she attended Providence University. She is now pursuing her Masters in Social Work and is getting married over the summer! We asked her a few questions to showcase both how amazing she is and the impact she’s made at DASH.

  1. Why did you choose to do your internship at DASH?: “I wanted to continue working with a non-profit organization that supports survivors of sexual and domestic violence.”
  2. What social justice issue are you most passionate about?: “I am most passionate about issues surrounding gender violence and coming at it from multiple perspectives-whether through research, direct work, advocacy, and other mezzo ways.
  3. What has been your favorite thing about working at DASH?: “Building relationships with some of the women and seeing them begin their healing journey. I also have loved Art Group!”
  4. What are your plans for the future?: “Planning a wedding, staying in D.C. for a bit, and continuing to work on ending  gender violence.”
  5. What is your spirit animal?: : “Panda bears are my absolute favorite animal, but if I had to be an animal I would like to be a bird so I could travel everywhere.”

What DASH staff say about Molly:

“I have enjoyed working with Molly she is very intuitive and is willing to go the extra mile to learn about the residents that we serve, she is soft spoken and laid back but don’t let that fool you, she understands the work that she does and why she does it. She uses some of her life experiences to influence the work that she does here at DASH.”

“I appreciate Molly’s thoroughness.”

“Molly is down to earth, intuitive and she’s from Minnesota – so what more could you ask for?”

“I appreciate Molly’s patient approach with her residents. She has handled both challenges and success from her work in a thoughtful way that ensure her growth as a social worker.”


Intern Profile Part 3: Alexis

Alexis Gareau is one of four graduate interns currently working with DASH. She’s originally from Bowie, Maryland, and she attended The Catholic University of America. She is now pursuing her Masters in Social Work and is the proud owner of three adorable Jersey calves-Winnie, Annie and Bea, and an equally adorable hound mix puppy named Ellie. We asked her a few questions to showcase both how amazing she is and the impact she’s made at DASH.

  1. Why did you choose to do your internship at DASH?: “I was really drawn to DASH’s low-barrier, harm-reduction model. I also felt strongly about working with victims of domestic and sexual violence in a team environment.”
  2. What social justice issue are you most passionate about?: “Homeless/housing issues, as well as environmental and animal rights issues. Lots and lots of issues!”
  3. What has been your favorite moment while working at DASH: “Helping a resident meet a goal she has set for herself.”
  4. What are your plans for after DASH: “I’ll keep you posted ;)”
  5. What is your spirit animal? “Probably a whale-they’re big enough that no one will mess with them, but they don’t have to be violent to assert their authority. Also, the OCEAN IS AMAZING.”

What DASH staff say about Alexis:

“I have appreciated Alexis thoughtful questions and processing with her around both client and organizational nuances. She is appreciated on the team and seems to have found her niche with her residents.”

“I appreciate Alexis’s perseverance.”

“Sure of herself, quiet, goal driven, always has a smile on her face. She’s works well with the residents.”

“Alexis has a really grounded attitude that I appreciate. She is easily able to put others at ease with little effort.”


Allies in Change Award Anouncements

4th Annual Allies in Change Awards Luncheon

April 2, 2014

Honoring D.C.’s Safe Housing Champions

DASH is pleased to honor the following individuals who have made a difference in the lives of women and children facing homelessness due to domestic violence.

Support Beam Award
Support Beam: That which steadies and strengthens the structure.

Ann-Marie VanTassell & Beth Hansen, Art Group Volunteers

Anchor Award
Anchor: That which provides structural reinforcement for the building.

Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW)

Building Brick Award
Building Brick: That which makes up the substance of the structure.

Dusty Wince, CEO and Founder, Knowledge Consulting Group

Pillar Award
Pillar: That which gives internal support to hold up the structure.

Ted McGinn, Community Activist

Keystone Award
Keystone: The central stone that holds together an archway.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

Join Us – Buy a Ticket or Sponsor today!


Thank You to Phi Sigma Pi!

AU drive

On behalf of DASH staff and residents, we are so grateful for Phi Sigma Pi’s recent donation drive at Safeway to benefit DASH.

The event was organized by the American University Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi, a national honor fraternity. They sent sixteen members to table for four hours at the Safeway in Georgetown.

They collected over $500.00 worth of purchased groceries that day including canned goods, cereal, pasta, feminine products, and toiletries for DASH women and children.

Get involved! Learn how you can host a “FunRaiser” for DASH, click here.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Tracy Thurman

Women’s History Month is here already, and we at DASH could not be more excited! We dedicate our first “spotlight on women” post to Tracy Thurman, who used her suffering to change the way police respond to spousal abuse in the US.  After her abusive husband nearly killed her in 1983, she sued the Torrington, Connecticut police department for violating her right to equal protection under the law.

TTracy Thurmanhough her abuser had made repeated threats on her life, the police ignored her reports because the abuse happened within a marriage.  Two weeks after she reported that he violated his restraining order, which was grounds for arrest, he repeatedly stabbed her.  Even after 3 policemen arrived on the scene, her abuser wasn’t arrested and continued to threaten her.  Finally, he was taken into custody as she was taken to the hospital.

In 1985, Tracy Thurman won her civil lawsuit and was awarded $2.3 million in damages.  More importantly, her journey brought massive changes in domestic violence laws. Now, domestic violence is an arrestable offense even if the victim doesn’t press charges. She continued to work with survivors of domestic violence; her life and her testimony paved the way for laws protecting victims of violence and we remember her story even today. Keep an eye out for more fearless women making change in preventing violence!


Intern Profile Part 1: Andy Bowen

Andy Bowen is one of four Social Work and three Undergrad interns at DASH this year. She’s from Severna Park, MD, but she claims DC as her real home. She’s currently getting her Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland – College Park. She has been interning at DASH since August and will be leaving us in April – but we are not quite ready to let her go. We asked her a few questions to showcase both how amazing she is and the impact she’s made at DASH.

  • How did you end up doing your internship at DASH?: “My band, Southern Problems, played a benefit show for DASH back in August 2012. I knew it was an organization that valued what I value: commitment to community, harm reduction, empowerment. When time came to apply to a second-year internship for my MSW program, DASH was my first choice.”
  • What social justice issue are you are most passionate about and why: “Economic justice is always the issue that I’m most focused on. My first job out of college was working in labor organizing, and it was impossible not to be infuriated and driven by the countless stories of people getting violated by their bosses, an inadequate safety net, and an overall system that wants for compassion.”
  • What has been your favorite DASH moment?: “I can’t go into specifics because of confidentiality, but there’s nothing like talking to one of the residents and having that moment where you both really get one another. That’s where healing starts.”
  • What are your plans for after DASH?: “Working on transgender and economic policy issues, most likely.”
  • If you had to be an animal what animal you be and why?: “I like cats, but they’re generally mean. I’d like to be a nice cat. Fighting all the meanness.”

What DASH staff say about Andy: 

“From the moment I met her I knew she was a go getter and that she would be a perfect fit for DASH. She always makes herself available to the women and staff, she will and does go the extra mile, you can tell that she loves her work and it shows in the work that she does. She will be a wonderful addition to any organization that she works with.”

“I appreciate Andy’s analysis.”

“I have really appreciated watching Andy work one on one with our residents. She’s shows a tenacity for assisting the residents in reaching their goals that I think the residents really appreciate.”

“Andy makes coming into work in the morning brighter and happier. She is always smiling, always ready talk, support or listen. She is going to do great things.”


Exploring the DASH Model – Voluntary Services

Langan Denhard is our Health and Wellness Intern at the Cornerstone site.
She is a senior at the University of Maryland studying Community Health.

Abusive relationships are characterized by an imbalance of power and control. The existence of transitional housing programs like DASH allows survivors and their children to leave a controlling and disempowering situation and move toward financial and emotional independence.

Most transitional housing programs are not like DASH. Though well-intentioned, many other organizations rely on a model that can be controlling. They may require residents to attend mandatory services every week in order to stay in the program—even if the services don’t meet their identified needs. Some organizations may also refuse housing to survivors who struggle with mental health and substance use issues—problems that research has proven to be directly correlated with experiencing intimate partner violence.

Though the DASH framework comes with unique challenges, it’s pretty simple to explain: safe housing is a right, not a privilege.  As a domestic violence program, we won’t turn anyone away because of the challenges they face linked to or exacerbated by homelessness or domestic violence.  So everyone comes into our program with their own experiences, and we just don’t have the power to tell them what they need to do.

This gives us the freedom to offer varied services and groups based on the residents’ own requests and self-identified needs.  We advertise each event by putting flyers and sign-up sheets around the building and sometimes directly reminding residents about the opportunity if we feel like they would benefit.  If some groups aren’t as widely attended, that may reflect to us what some of the residents feel like they need.  If even just one of the residents finds the program useful, that is reason enough to continue offering it.  Above all, we see our residents as people with their own growing sense of agency whose decisions deserve respect and understanding.

The residents who choose to attend our programs (which include but are not limited to: acupuncture, weight lifting, grief groups, and resume workshops) report finding them effective and helpful.  One of our residents said she felt like DASH was a place of healing and, “the purpose of coming here is to center everything around ourselves,” and move forward.  She regularly attends and enjoys our parenting classes.  We are currently evaluating and changing our services based on what feedback we get from residents.

Another resident, who had previously been in a program that provided mandatory services, said she appreciated that at DASH, “if you’re not feeling well you don’t have to go, and if you’re busy you don’t need to attend [the groups].”  Her favorite DASH group is “Let’s Talk!” where the residents can get together and talk about life and the unique challenges they face.

Our model seems more like common sense than innovation—not only is it based on respect, it’s proven to work.  A study of different transitional housing models by the National Network to End Domestic Violence showed that women receiving services felt that voluntary programs were more effective.  Women reported the most satisfaction when the advocacy staff provided options, support, and most of all—the ability to make their own decisions.


National Network to End Domestic Violence Study

CDC: IPV consequences

Revolution: DASH is born

Kylie Musolf is a senior at American University studying Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has worked at DASH as the development intern since January 2014.

It’s hard to pinpoint the first service project I ever completed. I grew up in rural Michigan with plenty of opportunities to do community service, and I was fortunate to grow up in a community that valued my participation. Doing community service opened my world up to unimaginable possibilities and passions and helped me gain some of the skills and experience I needed to move toward them.  Service certainly helped bring me to DASH: one of the recurring volunteer projects I did in secondary school was at my local domestic violence shelter.

While I can’t remember my first experience with community service, I can certainly remember my most recent. Last Saturday I showed up at DASH (a little late, as the red line was single tracking) with two wonderful young women of Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity. Little did we know that Revolution: DASH was soon to be born. Five young residents showed up on Saturday morning to clean up their community by picking up litter. We suited up with our warm clothes, sanitary gloves, and trash bags and headed out. We picked up several bags worth of litter such as beverage containers, old newspapers, cigarette butts, and candy wrappers from the sidewalks and street gutters. We took breaks between blocks to play tag and talk about school and sports.


The streets were sparkling clean and we were exhausted! The five young residents, two members of Alpha Phi Omega and I, returned to the community room to eat pizza (generously provided by &pizza) and talk about the environment.  We talked about the different kinds of litter we picked up, statistics about trash and litter, and how litter impacts our clean water supply. We also talked about how much water we use daily—I think everyone was surprised to know that we use nearly 350 gallons a day! We discussed how doing something simple like picking up litter impacts the entire world around us in multiple and important ways.  From this Revolution: DASH was formed. The founding members determined this awesome name for their community service club, which will meet monthly to do service and talk about social justice.

While we haven’t yet decided on the mission of the club (stay tuned for next month), my goal for the club is to help our young residents: recognize their social efficacy, build and explore their passions, and lead purpose driven lives.

Do you want to get involved in the Revolution? If you ideas for our next project or would like to donate lunch, please contact me at:

RD process


Healing Through Creative Expression

photo 3The Arcade, which is dedicated to promoting and educating art in Washington DC, and whose goal is to establish studio and workshop space for artists in the area has partnered with DASH to develop and hone in on the remarkable talents of some of the children at DASH.  Every Tuesday night at our Cornerstone location, Anne-Marie VanTassell and Beth Hansen volunteer with our resident children at DASH.  February 4, DASH hosted its second Children’s Art Show at Cornerstone.  Our resident children proudly provided presentations of their works to their families and community members. This showcase not only illustrated the hard work of both the volunteers and the resident children; but it also demonstrated the healing of trauma through creative expression.  One DASH supporter stated, “It was awesome to see the children showcasing their art, explaining processes, and thoughtfully answering questions about their pieces!”

photo 2 Thank you to all of who attended the art show, volunteered your time, and donated funds and/or art supplies for the program.  A major KUDOS and THANK YOU to our volunteer art teachers, Anne-Marie and Beth and to our Children’s Program Director, Emma.