Nitsan Gaibel talks with Charles Smith, a US army veteran who knows what it’s like to not have lived the smoothest life. He was orphaned at a young age, experienced abuse, and found himself homeless. Due to all of this, he swore to dedicate himself to helping people in abusive circumstances, and that’s how he came up with the idea for his non-profit entitled Karma. Karma aims to not only help the victims of abuse, but also help people know what to do if they should find themselves in a violent situation and assist those who are the abused as well as the abusers in order to get their lives back on track.
Nitsan: Charles, how did you come to create this non-profit, “Karma?”
Charles: I’m a US army veteran, I drove the Bradley for my C.O. in 1993-1996 and I was honourably discharged as a specialist. I went to school for criminal justice under the tutelage of Reed Hillman, the ex-chief of state police and I worked as a private investigator and I’ve had a number of jobs where I did security and work like that in order to get me prepared for what I wanted to do with Karma.
Nitsan: What aside from your Army experience or any other experience prepared you for Karma?
Charles: Well, more or less life experience. I lost my parents when I was young, I lived with my aunt and uncle when I was eleven years old because my mother died when I was five and my father died when I was eleven. I’ve seen the best of life and I’ve seen the worst of life.
Nitsan: So what brought you to this particular topic?
Charles: I was abused myself for a number of years living in Texas and Arizona with my father when he was alive, not abused by my father; but abused/bullied by the other children, as I was a minority there. I got into a lot of conflicts with the kids at school. I ran into a lot of people growing up that were in abusive type of situations. I was actually homeless for a number of years about ten years ago when my uncle that raised me died. Being in that type of situation I met a lot of other homeless veterans that were in family crisis situations and abusive situations and they needed a way out. There really wasn’t a way for them to get help. After I got on my feet I decided to dedicate my life to helping people like that. I started looking at where I could make the most impact with the life experience and training that I had and I found that besides the police, there’s no one to really protect the domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims. With my training I feel that I could make a great impact on that one area – domestic violence and sexual assault – by offering protection and investigative services.
Nitsan: So you created a service to fill the gap, correct?
Charles: Exactly.I created a non-profit called Karma which will be the first non-profit ever to offer protection and investigation services to domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims.
Nitsan: How did you come to formulate this very specific make-up of your organization which is innovative and different than others in the field, correct?
Charles: Yes, very different. We offer programs now that teach people about abuse and bullying and what you can do to protect yourself from them. We also have a program on positive thinking .What pretty much got me out of my homeless situation was that I had to change my way of thinking and think more positively and get something done every day so that I’m not in that situation ever again. We also have a program where we will be helping people to learn how to protect themselves, not using your fists, per say, unless you have to, but by using knowledge. I always say that, ‘why raise a fist if you don’t have to?’ I’ve studied martial arts for years and I still say that. I think that knowledge is the best way to protect yourself.
Nitsan: Tell me how else is Karma different from the existing agencies? Don’t they do the same thing?
Charles: A lot of agencies don’t have the programs that we have. A lot of them don’t teach you how to protect yourself. Like Jeremiah’s Inn in Worcester, we are now running one of our programs called “Monsters among Us” which is an anti-bullying, anti-abuse program, we run that as part of the intake. We are looking into running our programs in the colleges which will help college students be more aware of their surroundings and know what to look for if they are going to be subject to assault or subject to sexual assault.
Nitsan: To me it’s very clear that this is a terrible problem that’s far more widespread than people want to admit.
Charles: I agree.
Nitsan: I’d expect that the colleges have a very sophisticated program for its students. Is this not the case?
Charles: Right now it’s not as much as it should be. There was an article on CNN about the colleges needing more programs on abuse and what to do if you’re in a domestic violence or sexual assault situation which is where Karma will come in. We should be hearing back from them within a month or so if they want us to run our programs. I think the program that we have that is going to make the biggest impact is the protection and investigation services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
Nitsan: So what is the most common problem of victims of sexual assault that you solve that you don’t think the others solve as well?
Charles: There are a lot of situations where the person who is subject to domestic violence is afraid to leave their home. They don’t have the proper evidence to show the police so they can do something about it. They need an agency that will be there for them if they are in an abusive type of situation. Our main focus on that situation when we begin the protection and investigations services will be veterans and their families or any civilian family in a domestic violence situation. Our main focus is going to be the veterans and their families because a lot of veterans these days are coming home with PTSD and they’re coming home with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and they don’t know how to deal with the problems that they’re having. So not all of them mind you, and I don’t want to talk bad about the military because I’m military myself, but a lot of them get lost when they come home. They don’t know how to deal with situations of being in a home life and being a part of that situation. Sometimes they turn to abuse; abuse of their kids and abuse of their significant other. I don’t know how else to say it – I love the military and I don’t want to talk badly about them but you understand what I mean.