Why I’m Working For Sexual Assault Awareness In The COVID-19 Era


Our world is currently hindered, scared, and uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must rely on our community to carry us through dark times and help us find a light within the simple pleasures of life like delicious home-cooked meals, time with our loved ones, and virtual calls with family and friends in other households. Although this downtime can be positive for some, I can't help but feel my heart bleed for a specific group of people that COVID-19 is affecting heavily — those experiencing domestic violence.

The Reaches Of COVID-19

This April is the 19th anniversary of the designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Consistent efforts to bring awareness to this violence is critical to both past and current victims. The COVID-19-related increase in domestic violence crime rates is escalating at an alarming rate. With social distancing being an executive order in most U.S. states and worldwide, for some it means a question of survival. By social distancing they may be avoiding the risk of exposure to coronavirus in the outside world, but the danger within their homes may be all the more deadly.

Survivor, Tanya Selvaratnam, reporting for The New York Times, writes, "The most dangerous place in the world for a woman is her own home." She goes on to inform readers that domestic violence rates have doubled since cities went on lockdown. The drastic decrease in family court hearings, orders for protection raised to only "life or death" matters, and slow operation of the courts are culminating to create even more high-risk scenarios in our global society. Although finding a solution is pressing for the livelihoods of these victims, there are ways we can all help.

At my company, Sambar Kitchen, we are running a special "Buy 1, Give 1" promotion with one of our most popular products throughout the month of April. For every one jar purchased through our site or our Amazon store, another one will be generously donated to our local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault shelter, SAFE Berks.

Now Is The Time To Be More Than Just A Company

As a survivor myself, I will never ignore the trauma that I know happens all around us on a daily basis. Giving back to the survivors is a personal priority of mine every day, and even more so during the current global crisis. One of the hardest parts of sexual assault is the long-lasting after-effects. For myself and many others, these can include panic attacks, depressive thoughts, and disordered eating. Despite reaching some extremely dark states of mind, as time went on, and through the encouragement of friends getting me the help I needed, I began to heal. Through consistent therapy sessions, immersing myself in activism, and making a commitment to become more physically healthy — I realized how important the relationship I had with food and my body was to my wellbeing.

Recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and toxic relationships taught me that my happiness is vital in healing. It wasn't until I moved back to the comfort of my family's home in Reading, Pennsylvania that the importance of my roots revealed itself to me.

Sambar Kitchen is much more than the products I sell or the company it seems to be from the outside. Before this company was even a possibility in my mind, I was just a high school student getting ready for college who was worried about feeling homesick. My father and I spent hours in our kitchen tasting and mixing different things to make instant and ready-to-eat meals that I could easily keep in my dorm and mix with a box of rice from the cafeteria or Chinese food restaurant next door.

So, this really isn't just a company. It is the bond of myself and my father when I was an entire plane ride away from home. It is my ancestors' recipes, curated in South India and rarely found on grocery store shelves. It is a product I got to share with my friends when given the same meal options at our university day in and day out. Lastly, it is a taste of my roots wherever my branches spread.

Sambar Kitchen meals brought light into my life, and now it is my mission to help it bring light into others' lives as well.

With love and strength,

Devi Jags

Co-Founder Sambar Kitchen

Courtesy of Sambar Kitchen

For more questions, please feel free to contact us or reach us on one of our social media pages! This piece was originally edited for Sambar Kitchen by Karen Elaine Weiner through Adventure Marketing.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.

If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline at 1-800-931-2237 or visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.

5 Min Read

How Fitness Saved My Life and Became My Career

Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da

If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.

In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.

These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.

After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.

About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.

When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.

Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.

Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.

Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.

This article was originally published September 12, 2019.