By Mayra Rosales-Montoya
For its victims, domestic and child abuse can often feel like a topic people like to “sweep under the rug,” activist Gauthami Vemula said in a speech April 25.
“It’s not about the check. It’s about them calling three or four months down the line and saying ‘Hey, thanks for keeping my family together,’ ” Vemula said about her work as founder and president of Color Me Safe, a family crisis management consulting firm.
Before she created Color Me Safe, Vemula worked for Child Protective Services for 10 years as a child abuse investigator and department manager. During that time, Vemula found many holes in a system she calls “broken.”
One of the main issues Vemula witnessed during her time at CPS was that many families are not justly being served. She explained that these families are often immigrants who may have trouble speaking and understanding English.
Sometimes, these families don’t have the money to hire lawyers to fight their cases. Most often, however, it’s just people being manipulated and taken advantage of by a system they don’t understand.
After witnessing the wrongs in the structure, she decided to build a company that could help solve these problems.
“There was a void in the community and I wanted to fill it, so I created Color Me Safe. It’s a bridge between a broken system and North Texas families,” Vemula said.
Color Me Safe’s main goal is to help families along as they deal with CPS. Vemula’s organization collaborates with lawyers and medical professionals and guides the underrepresented step by step.
As a young girl, Vemula never imagined herself in the social services field. In fact, at one point in life she was a medical student with a 4.0 GPA. It was during this period that she found herself in a relationship with a man that would change the rest of her life.
For a year and a half, Vemula was in a mentally, physically and sexually abusive relationship. Her grades plummeted.
Her relationship with friends and family suffered. It wasn’t until her life was almost ended by her partner that she was able to gather up the courage to ask her parents for help and walk away.
It took a long time for Vemula to heal completely, but when she did recover she knew it was time to help make a change.
“Learn to let go of what was, and have faith in what will be,” she said.
Nearly everyone in the audience raised a hand for questions at the end of Vemula’s presentation, which was sponsored by the Asisan-American studies program.
“Many of us are ignorant of the actions we can take,” nursing major Jocelyn Ramirez said. “Knowledge is power. I didn’t know how to take action [after a friend was abused], but now I have more information.”
Professor Brett Wilkinson, who teaches U.S. history and African-American studies, appreciated that Vemula reached out to students and informed them about a tough topic.
“It’s an important issue that she and her organization raise,” he said. “It’s significant that young women and men learn about this. Many of us have been touched by domestic abuse and don’t know what we can do about it.”
Anna Howard, Vemula’s partner in Color Me Safe and licensed clinical social worker, knows that educating on the issue is crucial.
“I think that any issues of domestic violence are very fluid,” Howard said. “There’s no pattern. No blueprint. The best thing you can do to help someone is to be patient and consistent. These [victims] have no consistency in their lives.”
When she isn’t working with Color Me Safe, Vemula dedicates time to tell her story and bringing awareness to domestic violence and child abuse.
She also teaches children classical piano, has recently published a children’s book and runs WheatishComplexion.com, a blog dedicated to empowering women.
After her own experiences with domestic violence and over a decade of dedicating her life to helping women and children out of threatening and abusive conditions, Vemula still holds an air of positivity around her.
“Inspiration cannot be drawn from one thing, but everything and everyone,” she said. “The universe inspires me to be the best human being I can possibly be.”