Group aims to help women victimized by gun violence in Twin Cities

Jalilia Abdul-Brown is a group leader. (FOX 9)

As the Twin Cities experienced a spike in gun violence over the past two years, a new nonprofit organization is lending a helping hand to women who have been victims of gun violence.

"It's nice to be in an environment where you can talk and feel safe and feel comfortable talking," said Reverend Marcia Westbrook.

It's been a tough year since her two nieces were shot by their neighbor in Bloomington in August 2020. But her family has had some help to make it through this difficult time.

"Because this group has really kind of been an encouragement to us and been there for us," said Jalilia Abdul-Brown. "If we've needed anything. Just been there for us."

Westbrook and her family started going to monthly meetings at Shiloh Temple for women and girls who have been shot, stabbed, and assaulted in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The goal of the gatherings is to help women of color who have been victims of gun violence get past the trauma of what happened to them and reacclimatize them to their community.

"We deal with trauma on a different level, and we take it more personal. Usually, we give the help. We are the caregivers. Who helps the caregiver when the caregiver needs care?"

Violence prevention and trauma specialist Jalilia Abdul-Brown started the nonprofit Change Starts with Community which organizes the meetings after her sister was shot in 2018.

She says for many women, the psychological harm caused by gun violence takes much longer to heal than the physical wounds.

"It's to help them understand that even though something happened to you, nothing is wrong with you," Abdul-Brown explained.

But Rev. Westbrook says being with other women who have experienced what her family has experienced lets them all know they are not alone. "We need that comfort. We need one another to know that I'm not the only one going through this and there is nothing wrong with me because I'm going through this."