UPICares Serves Dinner at HER Shelter

By Jessica Lay
Nov. 16, 2018

Earlier this month, five members of the UPICares team served dinner to 12 women and nine children seeking refuge at the Help and Emergency Response (HER) Shelter. HER Shelter provides basic assistance and aims to promote healing and empowerment to those affected by domestic violence. The dinner was the first out of our Norfolk, Va., office and marked the beginning of 2018’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Team members Nikita, Amina, Jessica B., and Ana ready to serve dinner to shelter clients.

According to the Salvation Army, six percent of homelessness cases in the U.S. are caused by domestic violence. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that on a single night in January 2017, 16 percent of the overall homeless population (87,329 people) had experienced domestic violence. Survivors often need to leave home very quickly, sometimes with children or pets. This means that they must go without simple necessities like a change of clothes, food, or money.

According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV), the cycle of abuse starts with mounting tension, then a violent incident, and ends with a calm stage when the abuser might apologize profusely or even deny they did anything wrong at all. But not all abuse is physically violent. Abusers find many ways to control their partners.

Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), can manifest in several ways, such as controlling behavior, physical or sexual violence, withholding or hiding money and resources, emotional or verbal abuse, stalking, and isolation. Signs of domestic abuse can include:

  • Fear of your partner or feeling threatened
  • Feeling like you walk on eggshells or anxiety over potential reactions from your partner
  • Feeling belittled or humiliated
  • Having your possessions withheld or destroyed
  • Having limited access to the phone, car, or finances

Abuse can happen to people of all ages, gender identities, and socioeconomic status. NCADV reports one in three women and one in four men have been victims of domestic violence at some point. IPV disproportionately affects those in the LGBTQ community, who might experience barriers accessing resources.

And children are often the hidden victims of domestic violence.

Chatting with clients in the food line.

Facts from the Childhood Domestic Violence Association(CDV):

  • In the U.S., five million children witness domestic violence each year.
  • Children from violent or abusive homes are much more likely to experience significant psychological problems, short and long-term.
  • Those who grow up with domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide and 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Organizations like the HER Shelter provide warm meals, a safe place to stay, and are often the first step to survivors on their path to healing by improving economic security and overall well-being. This makes HER Shelter a perfect partner for UPIC Health, which strives to empower women every day.

“We believe we can inspire others to reach their ultimate potential, to establish a better life for themselves and their children.”  -HER Shelter

UPICares volunteers arrived at the shelter with healthy food and drinks prepared ahead of time. We did not see every face while at the shelter. Some of the clients work nights and some are still healing and prefer to keep to themselves. Upon leaving the shelter, the UPICares team received many words of appreciation. One client even expressed that she wished we could cook for them every night.

The experience at the shelter inspired employees in Norfolk to launch a winter clothing drive. We hope to provide warm coats and clothing to the women, children, and teens at the shelter.  If you would like to donate to HER Shelter, please contact erika@hershelter.com or call 757-485-1073.

Our meal consisted of lasagna, salad, cheese ravioli and tomato sauce, and fruit with whipped cream for dessert.

No one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

You can also visit their website at https://www.thehotline.org/

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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Growing Out Of Bad Relationship Cycles

By Juli Briskman
December 4, 2018

This is the second in a series of blogs about domestic violence experienced by UPIC employees and their families. #WeAreWhoWeServe

Something remarkable happened when UPIC encouraged employees to wear purple in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October.  The day set was Oct. 30 and as employees shared their photos from the offices and from home, many came with snippets and stories attached.

We have turned those stories into a blog series called #WeAreWhoWeServe.  This is the first expanded story from one of our coworkers who did not want to reveal her name.  We will call her Natalie.

Natalie, 34, is originally from Richmond, Va., and the eldest of six children. When we asked UPIC employees to wear purple in October, she wrote that she did not grow up in an abusive household but remembers her grandmother telling her to keep her smart mouth shut or a man would “beat her butt.”

Natalie says she did not grow up “abused.” But her mother was shot in the head and died when she was 12 and her grandmother, who raised her, was verbally abusive toward her own boyfriend while Natalie was in her custody.

This is where Natalie believes she learned to be a fighter and to have strong opinions that may have led to the rough relationships she experienced during her college years.  She says it was always about controlling her.

“As I got older I was in some relationships like that as well. I always considered myself a fighter.  It was like a mutual thing,” she said. She was in two abusive relationships while attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. and shortly after. And they each ended when the boyfriend was jailed on unrelated charges.  “I eventually realized that’s not the relationship I wanted.”

In the first relationship, Natalie said her boyfriend went from being a ‘9-to-5 guy’ to some kind of street guy.”  He later told her that he changed to prove he was strong and to control her. They would verbally battle, grab each other and tussle.  “We broke a lot of things.”

This boyfriend was jailed for shooting a college basketball player.

“He came in my apartment and said ‘hey babe cut on the TV look what I did.’  He thought I was the kind of female that wanted a street guy. In his crazy mind he thought that was what I wanted,” she said.  “I always wonder if my demeanor pushed him to be that way. He later said that he needed to do that to control me.”

It’s difficult for Natalie to label her relationships as violent and she finds ways to blame herself.  “Every time it was me saying something to them and it was something that just made them snap.”

She’s not atypical.  Many victims blame themselves. And according to LoveIsRespect.org, college students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse as 57% say it’s hard to identify.  On the whole, 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

But while she feels she’s “grown out of” accepting violent relationships, it’s clear Natalie had some hurdles to break a cycle that accepts verbal and physical abuse as the norm.  She grew up in a neighborhood with “a bunch of gang bangers and drug dealers.” Her mother suffered from crack addiction that eventually led to her death.  And her grandmother came from an abusive relationship that Natalie eventually realized led to her comments about getting her butt beat. She is the only one of her siblings to attend college.

The Second Relationship

In her second college-age relationship, things got more physical:  “It was way more on him. It was way more that he had to control me and I wouldn’t allow it.  I didn’t really want to fight. I can’t really remember what we fought about.”

Twice he tried to choke her.  The first time they were in a car.  “I was driving. I said something smart to him and he choked me.”  She remembers waking up and the car was still moving.

The second time it occurred at his uncle’s house while the boyfriend was drinking.  She remembers calling for help, nobody was coming and thinking that she may actually die that night.

 “I was screaming telling them to come to get him and they were like completely ignoring me.  And I remember being on the floor and he was choking me and I remember thinking he was going to kill me.”  The second abuser was also put in jail and right around the same time, Natalie got a job and an apartment.

Natalie changed the type of men she dates and is in a relationship now.  But she finds the tools for control have just changed.

She decided if she dated guys that make money she would not have to deal with physical abuse. But:  “Guys with money try to control me as well.”  

No one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.   You can also visit:  www.thehotline.org.

Juli Briskman is Chief Marketing Officer for UPIC Health, LLC.  UPIC outsources patient contact center, revenue cycle management, and telebehavioral health services.  To learn more, visit the Who We Are page on our website. Follow us @UPICHealth.

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UPIC Employees Share Domestic Violence Stories

By Juli Briskman
Nov. 6, 2018

This is the first in a series of blogs about domestic violence experienced by UPIC employees and their families. #WeAreWhoWeServe

Something remarkable happened when UPIC encouraged employees to wear purple in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month.  The day set was Oct. 30 and as employees shared their photos from the offices and from home, many came with snippets and stories attached.

We learned that women throughout the organization had experienced domestic violence as direct victims or secondarily as they watched their mothers, sisters, or friends suffer at the hands of an abuser.  The stories cascaded throughout the day as others were inspired to share after feeling support from their UPIC sisters.  Eventually, eleven out of our 80 employees shared details, some of whom had not shared them previously.   We’ve always known that ‘we are who we serve.’  But Oct. 30th drove this point home more emphatically than any other time in our existence.

We know that 10 million people a year are physically abused by their partners. And 521 women have died this year from gun-related domestic violence.  More than 20,000 calls are made to domestic hotlines, every day, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. To learn more about domestic violence and all its forms, and to get help, visit the NCADV website.

And even though we know all of this, it becomes painfully real when we hear it from our own coworkers.  

UPIC is honored that these women felt empowered to share their stories at work and we know the #metoo movement has been a catalyst for feminism and equality.  But we also know that unless UPIC had made it our mission to support and empower women from all walks of life, these stories may never have been revealed.

During my marriage, I was beaten, held hostage, robbed of everything, driven off the road with my mom and baby in the car and tortured on different occasions.

This is UPIC’s social media post from Oct. 30, 2018, when employees wore purple to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Here we share the brief summaries that came through on Oct. 30th and in the coming months, we will share some of these stories in more detail from the women who are brave enough to publicize their names and details.  For now understand that each, in their own way, overcame their own fears, self-doubts and social stigma just to be able to type these words:

  • This is hard for me to share with so many people at once especially since I can’t get the words “what happens in this house stays in this house” out of my head but I am a survivor of domestic violence. #WeAreWhoWeServe


  • I was 18 when he smashed my car windshield during an argument. When I took him back, he hit me. So thankful for the UPIC team and our ability to come together, not in spite of but because of our past experiences, and really be there for each other and those we serve.


  • Coming close to six years ago, I was a victim of domestic violence. A small argument at home that blew out of proportion to where I was stabbed three times by my own family member. The physical scars left behind do not even equate to the emotional and mental scars that any domestic violence survivor are left with, but we use it to pull through and empower those around us. Even though I am not in the office, I proudly wear purple with you all today.


  • I didn’t go through any violence but I did watch it first hand with my ex-stepfather and my mother it’s the worst thing in the world!  I want everyone to know that they’re not alone and I’m wearing purple today to show that we are not alone and it will get better.


  • I’ve never been in a domestically violent relationship but my mother and many of my cousins have been. The stories they’ve told about what it took to leave have stuck with me forever. Love isn’t supposed to hurt.  


  • I grew up in a domestic violence home where my mother would run away with us to other homes for weeks to protect us. This is for my mommy.


  • Like most, I was put through domestic violence when I was young and saw my mother have the strength to put a stop to it for her 4 kids and showed me how to stand up for myself.  LADIES IF YOU WERE PART OF DOMESTIC ABUSE ARE WERE ABLE TO SURVIVE, BE PROUD !! AND IF YOU HAD KIDS KNOW THEY ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR STRENGTH! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!


  • I will share one story. During my marriage, I was beaten, held hostage, robbed of everything, driven off the road with my mom and baby in the car and tortured on different occasions. This amongst other things went on over a course of 5 years but I got away. It is always in your mind and never goes away but it makes you stronger. That is just one story but just wanted to say you are never alone and we all are family who is here for one another! We are who we serve.


  • Domestic Violence can be so traumatizing & many of us are too scared, embarrassed, and ashamed to say anything or even leave, sometimes even “brainwashed.” I grew up in a household of domestic violence for 14 years (my mom & brother’s dad). Then I found myself in that same horrible cycle when I moved out for the first time at (the age of) 19 with my then boyfriend. I would be made to sleep without a blanket or pillow. He would throw things at my head, push me down, take my bank cards or phone.  He would self-harm so I would feel guilty. He would fly down the interstate going 100+ mph with no care in the world because he was angry and ready to just take our lives. He once forced me out of the car onto the interstate and several times forced me out the car at random places and leave. While I was at work he would threaten to let my dog loose outside knowing I could do absolutely nothing. He pushed away my best friend of eight-plus years out my life (lucky she forgave me after two years of no contact).


  • He would force himself on me when I was not wanting it at all. When he got angry the look in his eyes, his Hulk-like demeanor, the sweat coming down his face….it was terrifying! Even after I kicked him out, changed the locks & got him off the lease and many months later he would stalk me.  My brothers even tell me that from time to time he still tries reaching out to them asking about me, I spotted his sister in Walmart not too long ago and was hoping she did not see me because I did not want him finding out where I live. I just hope anyone in a domestic violence situation is able to one day break free and tell their story just like we all have.


  • I remember growing up my grandmother would tell me that a man will beat my butt if I didn’t control my mouth. I used to think she was crazy for saying something like that. I later found out she experienced domestic violence as well. The crazy part was I used to use my smart mouth as an excuse to justify their behavior. Domestic violence is sometimes a generational curse and is hard to break away from. So be proud and stay brave!

Juli Briskman is Chief Marketing Officer for UPIC Health, LLC.  UPIC outsources patient contact center, revenue cycle management, and telebehavioral health services.  To learn more, visit the Who We Are page on our website. Follow us @UPICHealth.

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UPICares Partners with H.E.R. Shelter in Norfolk

By Jessica Bisch
Aug. 3, 2018

Expanding the UPICares initiative, UPIC Health is working with a new partner, H.E.R (Help and Emergency Response) Inc., a non-profit shelter that assists victims of domestic and relationship violence, stalking, and human trafficking.  The partnership will be organized out of UPIC’s Norfolk, Va. center as H.E.R. operates two facilities in Portsmouth and Chesapeake, Va.

As UPIC has learned through processing more than 120,000 patient calls per month, those in need of reproductive health support often are victims of the very issues plaguing H.E.R. Shelter clients.  Thus, in an effort to engender empathy and understanding among our employees, UPIC partners with several non-profits in this arena.

“We believe all adults and children are entitled to a violence-free life in a stable environment.”
H.E.R. Shelter, Inc.

Donations collected by UPIC for children in the H.E.R. Shelter Program

UPICares kicked off the partnership with H.E.R. by collecting for the annual Christmas in July Donation Campaign. Donations included toys, hygiene items, school and art supplies, among others things — all to be donated to the H.E.R. Shelter Children’s Program.

“Showing love and support to these children when circumstances such as domestic abuse arise, provides a sense of community for these mothers and families,” said Nikita Crawford, UPIC Senior Lead of Operations in the Norfolk Center. “Participating in this donation drive is UPIC’s way of saying we care about our communities and sometimes it takes a village to raise healthy, happy children.”

H.E.R. is certified by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and participates in a 24-hour emergency hotline, shelter, and other programs to empower individuals, break the cycle of abuse, and help clients sustain healthy and productive lives.

The CDC  reports that one in four women and one in nine men have experienced intimate partner violence; which can include physical, sexual, or stalking incidents resulting in a negative impact on their health and lives.  Women experiencing abuse also can have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Almost three-quarters of all murder-suicides are intimate partner related, and 94% of these victims are female according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).  Up to 50% of  transgender people will experience will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives.

The team participated in an ugly Christmas sweater contest to show their support for the drive.

The Christmas in July Donation Drive culminated in an event at the Greenbrier Country Club in Chesapeake, Va., on July 25. It included a guest speaker who is a survivor of domestic violence, as well as a meet and greet with local businesses in the Hampton Roads area.

Dinner and cupcakes were provided by Sweet Haven Bakery, a workforce program developed by H.E.R. Workforce participants are expected to attend all employment and life skills classes and complete a certain number of kitchen hours to receive a food handler’s license. They also learn about interviewing, resume writing and receive references for future job applications.  Finding gainful employment often is the first step to empowerment for disenfranchised and abused women.

The Cycle of Abuse
In conjunction with the H.E.R. partnership, UPIC launched its quarterly Guest Speaker Series with H.E.R.’s Erika Compliment who discussed the cycle of abuse many clients are trying to break.

According to the Blue Campaign, which provides a free victim support phone line, intimate partner violence is often experienced in three stages. The first being increasing anger and blaming, followed by a verbal or physical attack, and finally, the calm stage when the abuser minimizes, apologizes, or denies that they did anything wrong.

Instances of violent physical and sexual abuse also can be coupled with factors such as coercion, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimization, denial, blaming, weaponizing children, economic abuse, and misogyny. These factors of abuse are less easily defined, but add to the severity and length of the overall pattern of abuse, Compliment said.

“92% of women discuss abuse as one of their top mental health concerns, even if they have never been abused,” says Erika Compliment of H.E.R.

Guest Speaker Erika Compliment from H.E.R. with UPIC team members Jessica Bisch and Nikita Crawford.

Given the unique nature of every survivor’s story, Compliment put a personal spin on her speech.  Several UPIC employees also come from a background of abuse, making our work and partnerships with organizations such as H.E.R., that much more important and meaningful to us.  The discussion with Compliment was fulfilling and educational for all who attended.

Participating in the donation drive and speaker series allows UPIC to align with our partners in the common goal of supporting and empowering women.

Abuse happens across the board and does not depend on factors such as socioeconomic status or gender identity.  If you or a loved one find themselves in an emergency, call the police. If safe, reach out to the H.E.R., Inc. Hotline for assistance: 757-251-0144 or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1−800−799−7233.  Among the statistics and information shared, Erika offered several resources including a phone number to call should you suspect human trafficking; 1-866-347-2423, and one for victim support: 1-888-373-7888, complimentary of the Blue Campaign.

Author Jessica Bish is a Patient Care Coordinator at UPIC Health. Jessica is involved in many of the volunteer endeavors pursued by UPICares and enjoys participating in our monthly spirit weeks. Nikita Crawford contributed to this story. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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