Rose of Sharon founder Rhonda Thompson, left, with Atlanta's first lady Sarah-Elizabeth Reed, wife of Mayor Kasim Reed (Photos by Terry Shropshire for Atlanta Daily World and Real Times Media).

Rose of Sharon founder Rhonda Thompson, left, with Atlanta’s first lady Sarah-Elizabeth Reed, wife of Mayor Kasim Reed (Photos by Terry Shropshire for Atlanta Daily World and Real Times Media).

CLARKSTON, Ga. — The festive atmosphere inside the Georgia Piedmont Technical College was shut off like a faucet when “Living Behind the Mask Masquerade” creator Rhonda Thompson asked everyone if to raise their hands if they were victims of domestic violence or knew someone who was. When virtually every hand raised, a somber pall fell over the conference center like a dark cloud.

Suddenly no one was smiling anymore.

Now that she had everyone’s attention, Thompson took out a plain piece of white paper to give a powerful and poignant example of how domestic violence can damage or destroy a victim’s psychic, emotions and spirit. As she commissioned attendees to shout out words that would constitute mental abuse (“you’re ugly”, “you’ll never amount to anything,” “you’re worthless,” “you’re fat,” etc.), she would crumble the white paper more and more until it was merely a small ball.

Rose of Sharon founder Rhonda Thompson

Rose of Sharon founder Rhonda Thompson

Yet, even when that person has attained healing and is restored mentally and physically, he or she will carry scars for the rest of their lives, as Thompson demonstrated when she unfolded the paper to reveal the many creases and wrinkles in the paper.

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This was the purpose of the “Living Behind the Mask Masquerade Ball: A Purple Carpet Affair,” a collaboration between Thompson’s Rose of Sharon Transitional and the Beverly Cunningham Outreach Center, to cast a brighter spotlight on the pandemic, to raise money during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to bring a new women’s shelter to the Atlanta community.IMG_3933

The black-tie soiree also honored the likes of Jasmine Crow of Celebrity Black Giving, singer/songwriter Debra Hightower and first lady Sarah Elizabeth, Boss Chix Janet Jackson, Andrea Kelly, Jodine Basterash, Kendra Turner, Sharon Willingham, Carlett Martin, and Kristle Shanell will all be honored.

Thompson, left, with Andrea Kelly, ex-wife of singer R. Kelly

Rhonda Thompson, left, with Andrea Kelly, ex-wife of singer R. Kelly

Thompson is a walking testament to domestic violence and sexual abuse survival. This is what probably prompted the young woman to work at the the crisis line at Sojourner Truth House when she was living in Milwaukee. Thompson knows that searing emotional pain, she knows that feeling of helplessness and abject humiliation and embarrassment that violence and sexual abuse can bring, when your innocence is stolen and can never be gotten back. She knows those times when you are made to feel lower than a snake’s belly.

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This is probably why, when Thompson was driving home one day, she personally helped a another woman and three children flee from a domestic violence incident and transported them from Milwaukee to Racine, Wis. on the Greyhound. This is when Thompson felt the yearning from the deepest recesses of her soul that she had to make healing women and preventing domestic violence her life’s mission. Thompson tried to ignore the calling for 15 yrs., but eventually the concept engulfed her and permeated her entire being. And that is when Thompson she founded Rose of Sharon in February 2012.

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Rose of Sharon Transitional Support is a 5013c owned and operated in the heart of Atlanta, which has helped dozens of women transition through the healing phases of domestic violence while restoring their inner and outer image and independence.

According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Justice, one in four women have or will become a victim of domestic violence. These are the people that Thompson wants to serve. This is more than just an organization for her; this is her ministry, her reason for being. Thompson has a great vision for ROS, with the primary focus being housing — taking the women from emergency shelter to transitional and into permanent housing. And, just as important, to help each victim pick up the shards of their shattered lives and restore their sense of selves so that they can move on to fulfill their life’s destiny.

For more information, log onto http://www.roseofsharonnewstart.org or via Facebook: Rose of Sharon Transitional Living for Women Inc.

Take a look at the photographic highlights from the Living Behind the Mask Masquerade Ball.

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