On Monday, the 41-year-old reality star, in connection with the Evelyn Lozada Foundation, launched the Turn Hurt Into Joy online campaign to raise money for charities that help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the month of October.
The campaign, which will reward a lucky winner (who will be chosen in November) with an original Ines Di Santo wedding gown, is a “testament that a negative can be transformed into a positive,” Lozada tells ET.
“Several years ago, I wore a beautifully crafted Ines Di Santo original design as I prepared to enter into one of the most sacred and memorable unions of my life,” she explains of her short marriage to former NFL player Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, which ended after the onetime professional athlete head-butted her during a verbal argument. “I was married in 2012, three weeks later I was in the hospital getting six stitches and 43 days after that, I was divorced.”
Johnson was subsequently arrested on simple battery and misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He was later sentenced to one-year probation and domestic violence counseling.
Although Lozada moved out of the Miami, Florida, home that she shared with Johnson, she points out that “not having the financial means can contribute to hesitation when deciding to leave an abusive relationship."
"This campaign is my way of supporting domestic violence survivors via organizations that are providing the actual services," Lozada says. "Although all did not end well for me, it doesn’t mean that my hurt couldn’t be turned into joy!"
With "so many deserving Bronx-based domestic violence programs to choose from,” narrowing it down to two charities wasn't easy, but Lozada chose the organizations after careful “vetting."
Lozada, whose wedding gown had been stored in her garage, came up with the idea for Turn Hurt Into Joy during a conversation with the Evelyn Lozada Foundation’s philanthropic strategist, Jennifer Jones.
She officially announced the campaign at the 17th annual Brides' March (also known as the Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk) in New York City on Sept. 26. The Basketball Wives star joined hundreds in marching to honor victims and bring awareness to domestic violence.
The annual event was started in 2001 in remembrance of Gladys Ricart, a 39-year-old New York woman killed by an ex-boyfriend on her wedding day in 1999.
“The story of Gladys Ricart continues to give me chills -- 18 years after her horrendous murder, the number of domestic violence cases across the country are rising,” Lozada notes.
The march was both “melancholy” and “amazing" for the mother of two.
“Marching with domestic violence survivors, affected family members and people who genuinely care through the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx was a mind-blowing experience for me. The passion-filled conversations as we marched, solidified my thoughts of how much more needs to be done," she says, adding, "No one should have to live in fear of violence, especially in his or her home.”