Thursday, September 27, 2012

Domestic Abuse Awareness - Pa Coalition Against Domestic Violence


Stand Up and Speak Out

Milestones Communications is a small PR firm that works with groups large and small, corporate and non-profit. We also are active in community service, volunteerism and working pro bono for causes near and dear.
This year, we wanted to commit to helping raise awareness about domestic abuse. Why this cause and why now? Because we believe our homes should be a place of safety, love, respect and admiration – for all.   

Putting an End to Domestic Abuse

We were moved to action after seeing an Associated Press report that indicated 1 in 4 women had suffered at the hands of someone they loved and trusted, someone they’d lived with or had been in a relationship with. The number was startling to most – to all except those who work with the victims. And they, across the board, knew the numbers were higher than most of us imagined. The acts of violence included murders, beatings, rapes and stalking along with strikes and blows, pushes, shoves and threats thereof. We realized then that the number of women, children and men who also experienced domestic abuse of all sorts had to, likewise, be beyond our comprehension.
Consider this:
  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States
  • Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life
  • 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in college
  • Women who have experienced DV are 80% more likely to have a stroke, 70% more likely to have heart disease, 60% more likely to have asthma and 70% more likely to drink heavily than women who have not
As we gave thought to the unsettling statistics, we realized that we personally knew of those affected. Perhaps not our BFF revealing blow-by-blow accounts of the latest cut, bruise or blow, but a relative who has changed over time, a friend who doesn’t have the same zest for life, a colleague who’s more withdrawn, a church member who’s nice but distant. Chances are you know someone who’s having a tough time at home. Their lives may be in jeopardy, they may live in fear, walk on eggshells. Maybe not violent pushing and shoving - perhaps their reality is more subtle and socially acceptable  - but a string of stress-producing incidents, nonetheless, that keep one on edge and in constant fear that wears one out over time.

Do you know someone who’s the victim of domestic abuse?

If not, we’d wager it’s only because they aren’t talking. And that’s precisely why domestic abuse has the power to make so many feel so powerless. Because those abused live in fear – of saying something that will set the abuser off, doing something that will set off a series of attacks, looking or responding in a way that “invites” whatever it is that follows. Too often, the abuser puts on a happy face for the rest of the world but those closest to them encounter a snarling face who somehow believes that they can make themselves feel better by making others feel worse.
As we took to heart the sobering statistics, we came to the conclusion that none of us should accept or minimize abuse in any form. Those who are abused don’t speak up and don’t seek help because they feel they can’t. The first step in understanding their pain - be it physical, mental or emotional - is learning more about it. From there, we can lend our compassion, our care and concern, critical resources and most of all, intolerance for the inexcusable, the unacceptable and the unfathomable. Knowing what to look for will make it more difficult for those committing abuse to continue on unnoticed, unaccountable, or unconcerned.

And let’s not make the mistake of thinking that it’s just women. These stats include teens, youths and men.
Our goal is to share more in the months ahead, spotlighting the organizations that work to raise awareness about domestic abuse as well as speak with those most affected.
We started with the York YWCA in York, PA; we talked with Hope's Door in Collins County, TX and the Women of Means Escape Network in Los Altos, CA. Today, we talk with the Pennsylavania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Tell us more about your organization.  

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence is the nation’s oldest statewide domestic violence organization. We were founded in 1976 and over the years built a network of 60 community-based programs serving victims and their children in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.  Among the free and confidential services these programs have offered are safe shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, support groups and children’s programs to more than 2.5 million individuals.

What drew you to the field? How did you become involved?
Many, but not all, of our founders and advocates were once victims themselves. We are drawn to this work because of concern for a group of victims that often doesn’t elicit much public sympathy. It’s still common for people to blame victims of domestic violence for not leaving, when we know from statistics and anecdotal experience that victims are most in danger when they end or leave the abusive relationship.

Why do abusers abuse?
There are many reasons for abuse including having grown up in a home where family violence was the norm.  Abusers come from all educational, income, racial, ethnic and religious groups. For most of them the violence is a means of maintaining power and control over their victim.

Is it the victim’s fault?
Violence and abuse are never the victim’s fault. They are solely the fault of the one committing the violence and abuse. No one deserves to be abused.

Are there victims who’ve broken the cycle and what made the difference?

Executive Director Peg Dierkers
Many victims have broken the cycle of violence. Sometimes it takes many tries to successfully end an abusive relationship. Victims who reach out for the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable advocates are able to find the financial, emotional, educational and employment help they need to break away and stay away.

How can they find help safely?
They can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for a referral to their nearest local domestic violence services program. An advocate there can help them develop a safety plan.

What are common myths and misconceptions about victims?
Some common myths and misconceptions about victims include that they could stop or leave the violence if they really wanted to, that the violence is somehow their fault and that they only come from lower socio-economic classes.

What are the signs of physical abuse?  
Some signs of physical abuse include bruises (or long sleeves on warm days to conceal bruises), black eyes, cuts, marks on the skin, broken bones and dizziness, unconsciousness and memory loss when there is head trauma.

What are the signs of non-violent abuse?
 Someone may become more quiet than usual, withdrawn, isolated from friends and family, worried about appeasing and keeping happy their partner and generally more fearful.

What can friends and family do to help?
Ask the person if something is wrong, if they need to talk about something or need some help. Offer them the National Domestic Violence Hotline number. Offer to watch their children while they go to an appointment with an advocate, or take in their pet(s) while they are in shelter. Let them know you care, you won’t be judgmental, and you are there for them.

What can the public do to help?
Local domestic violence shelters operate on a shoestring budget. The last few years they have seen their state and federal funding cut while demand for their services has increased. Consider donating money or calling to ask what donated goods they need. Encourage your local school to include prevention of teen dating violence in their curriculum.  Encourage your workplace and church to invite speakers and put up posters with the hotline number on bulletin boards and in restrooms.

Tell us more about the greatest success story you’ve seen.
We adhere to strict confidentiality when it comes to victims and their stories. However, we can say that we’ve seen many abused women flee to a shelter with their children in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothing on their backs. Within a short time they are in counseling, the woman is furthering her education or brushing up on her employment skills, and soon she has a job and has moved the children into a safe new home.

How can we help your organization?
Continue raising awareness about domestic violence and the free and confidential services available to victims.

What books, movies, or songs realistically illustrate domestic abuse?
The Burning Bed.

Is there a local organization you know that’s doing great things in the community to help victims of domestic abuse? Drop us a line. We’d love to support their cause.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Domestic Abuse Awareness - Kudos to Women of Means Escape Network

Stand Up and Speak Out

Milestones Communications is a small PR firm that works with groups large and small, corporate and non-profit. We also are active in community service, volunteerism and working pro bono for causes near and dear.
 
This year, we wanted to commit to helping raise awareness about domestic abuse. Why this cause and why now? Because we believe our homes should be a place of safety, love, respect and admiration – for all.  

Putting an End to Domestic Abuse

We were moved to action after seeing an Associated Press report that indicated 1 in 4 women had suffered at the hands of someone they loved and trusted, someone they’d lived with or had been in a relationship with. The number was startling to most – to all except those who work with the victims. And they, across the board, knew the numbers were higher than most of us imagined. The acts of violence included murders, beatings, rapes and stalking along with strikes and blows, pushes, shoves and threats thereof. We realized then that the number of women, children and men who also experienced domestic abuse of all sorts had to, likewise, be beyond our comprehension.
Consider this:
  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States
  • Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life
  • 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in college
  • Women who have experienced DV are 80% more likely to have a stroke, 70% more likely to have heart disease, 60% more likely to have asthma and 70% more likely to drink heavily than women who have not
As we gave thought to the unsettling statistics, we realized that we personally knew of those affected. Perhaps not our BFF revealing blow-by-blow accounts of the latest cut, bruise or blow, but a relative who has changed over time, a friend who doesn’t have the same zest for life, a colleague who’s more withdrawn, a church member who’s nice but distant. Chances are you know someone who’s having a tough time at home. Their lives may be in jeopardy, they may live in fear, walk on eggshells. Maybe not violent pushing and shoving - perhaps their reality is more subtle and socially acceptable  - but a string of stress-producing incidents, nonetheless, that keep one on edge and in constant fear that wears one out over time.

Do you know someone who’s the victim of domestic abuse?
If not, we’d wager it’s only because they aren’t talking. And that’s precisely why domestic abuse has the power to make so many feel so powerless. Because those abused live in fear – of saying something that will set the abuser off, doing something that will set off a series of attacks, looking or responding in a way that “invites” whatever it is that follows. Too often, the abuser puts on a happy face for the rest of the world but those closest to them encounter a snarling face who somehow believes that they can make themselves feel better by making others feel worse.

As we took to heart the sobering statistics, we came to the conclusion that none of us should accept or minimize abuse in any form. Those who are abused don’t speak up and don’t seek help because they feel they can’t. The first step in understanding their pain - be it physical, mental or emotional - is learning more about it. From there, we can lend our compassion, our care and concern, critical resources and most of all, intolerance for the inexcusable, the unacceptable and the unfathomable. Knowing what to look for will make it more difficult for those committing abuse to continue on unnoticed, unaccountable, or unconcerned.
And let’s not make the mistake of thinking that it’s just women. These stats include teens, youths and men.

Our goal is to share more in the months ahead, spotlighting the organizations that work to raise awareness about domestic abuse as well as speak with those most affected.
We started with the York YWCA in York, PA., talked yesterday with Hope's Door in Collins County, TX and today spend time with Ruth Patrick, who founded the Women-of-Means Escape Network in Los Altos, CA.

Tell us more about your organization.
WOMEN~SV or Women-of-Means Escape Network is designed to raise awareness about domestic violence as it affects women in middle to upper income areas  and to offer information and resources to help them deal with domestic violence more safely and effectively.
The uusual impression of a "wife beater" is an impoverished drunken man living in trailer.  However, the statistics bear out the fact that there is a high level of domestic violence against more affluent, highly educated women.  Many more affluent women, including many women in the tonier neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, are subjected to domestic violence.  There is odften financial abuse and emotional abuse, a pattern of coercive control, and the cycle of violence usually continues into a downward spiral until there is a serious, often life-threatening event. It's all about power and control. 
In 2011, the deaths from domestic violence rose three-fold from 5 the year before to 16 in Santa Clara County. The Women-of-Means Escape Network is new, supported by the Community Foundation, the Los Altos police chief, Tuck Younis, and local politicians, Joe Simitian, and Anna Eshoo. 
What drew you to the field? How did you become involved?
I had a couple of close friends who gradually opened up to me about the domestic violence they were experiencing—professional women in nice homes in nice neighborhoods. They had a hard time getting services because the general perception was that domestic violence doesn’t happen in nicer neighborhoods. At the time I was working on a project at a local teaching hospital, interviewing doctors and therapists to create a curriculum for young women with eating disorders, then went out into the school districts and taught it. I found some of the children distracted in class, sometimes even being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD when they were really just focused on the trauma and chaos that was happening in the home. I decided to find out more about domestic violence and this apparent lack of help for women in middle to upper income areas. I interviewed over 30 providers in the field of domestic violence and they all confirmed the gap in services for women in this population. Children are the hidden victims of abuse and I was determined to do what I could to address the source of the suffering.

Why do abusers abuse?
Abuse is a learned behavior, a choice. It is not an anger issue, a result of stress, drugs, or the economic situation. If an abuser is beating his partner (“his” because 85-95% of DV victims are female) and someone comes to the door, he is very capable of turning off the abusive behavior instantly and slipping back into that public/social image that is so at odds with his behavior behind closed doors. And the abuser gets plenty of reinforcement for his behavior—he gets to dominate the home, avoid domestic chores and responsibilities, show up only when he feels like it, and be treated like a king, a master with no repercussions for his behavior. For an abuser, it often really is “all about them”.

Is it the victim’s fault?
Abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault. The abuser will generally blame the victim and through this blame and constant criticism can often end up making her believe it is all her fault: if she weren’t so “lazy/sloppy/late/stupid”, etc. he wouldn’t have to act this way. But the truth is he DOESN’T ever have to act that way. There is always a choice—HIS choice—to act with compassion or contempt, gentleness or cruelty, shared power or domination and control.

Are there victims who’ve broken the cycle and what made the difference?

Yes there are victims who succeed in breaking the cycle. It helps tremendously to have a trusted friend to confide in, someone to give them that first inkling that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Personal counseling can help (not marriage counseling which typically only makes the abuse worse). Therapy can help strengthen her self-esteem, process what’s being done to her, and help her realize that she doesn’t deserve the abuse and there is a way out. Putting money aside secretly and becoming financially independent can also give her the means, strength, and courage to leave. And considering the effect the abuse is having on her children—everything from headaches, stomachaches, and a drop in school performance to getting into drugs as a way of self-medicating, and bullying or victim behavior. 1 in 3 children who witness abuse in the homes will grow up to become victims or abusers themselves. Rather than “staying for the sake of the children”, it is often healthier and safer to leave for the sake of the children.
How can they find help safely?
Getting a disposable phone can help (as long as she can keep it hidden), as well as contacting a lawyer who has experience representing abused women. Lawyers can graduate from law school with no training in domestic violence, so it’s important to find those with experience. It’s vital that she not tell her abuser if she is thinking of leaving him—he will see that as a loss of control and will go to great lengths to re-assert that control often putting her physical safety in jeopardy. But experienced counselors and lawyers can help her create a safety plan to deal effectively with these risks.

What are common myths and misconceptions about victims?
They must come from dysfunctional families.
They must enjoy it—otherwise they would just leave.
They can’t be very smart or well-educated or have successful careers.
They don’t live in middle to upper income areas.
They don’t really want to leave.
They are at least partly to blame.

What are the signs of physical abuse?
A woman who is “accident prone”, reticent about physical contact, unexplained bruising/injuries.

What are the signs of non-violent abuse?

More useful terms might be “emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, financial” forms of abuse—the scars from this kind of abuse can last a lifetime and it does violence to a person’s spirit, crushing it slowly but inevitably over time. Victims of abuse are exposed to the same types of coercive control and torture that are used on prisoners of war and the effects on them are very similar.They become hesitant, startle easily, show signs of  PTSD; their self-esteem plummets; they develop depression, anxiety, physical health issues, possibly drug or alcohol addiction as a way of self-medicating; they withdraw from friends and family (one of the abuser’s tactics is often to isolate the victim); they lose their “joie de vivre”; and friends and family begin to comment that they are “not the same person”, there has been a deterioration in almost every area of their life. Their work may be affected as well—it’s difficult to concentrate when they are distracted by the stress and trauma of a chaotic home life.

What can friends and family do to help?
Tell her she is NOT alone, she does NOT deserve the abuse and there are people who can help. Be there to listen, support, and offer suggestions—but don’t ever judge her or tell her to “just leave”.

What can the public do to help?
Donate to domestic violence organizations—they are under-funded and over-burdened often having to turn clients away. Support domestic violence education programs in schools, workplaces, and in the community.

Tell us more about the greatest success story you’ve seen.
A woman who was severely abused emotionally and physically by her partner of 20 years, freed herself from the abuse, and went on to become a highly successful business woman. She is in a new relationship now with a loving, compassionate man. It can happen!

What propelled this woman to leave was realizing the damage it was doing to her son-- he had become depressed to the point of being suicidal, had gone from being a straight A student to failing every class. She realized that it wasn't helping to keep the family intact. The family was already broken, and the healthiest, safest thing she could do for her son was to leave and take him with her. In terms of leaving her abuser, she couldn't do it for herself, but she could do it for her son--in fact she realized she had to do it for her son. She talked to a trusted friend who encouraged her, found another friend who had left an abusive relationship and gone on to a happier life. She contacted a counselor and began therapy which helped her realize the abuse wasn't her fault and she deserved better treatment. She learned to re-define what love means--mutual respect, compassion. forgiveness for mistakes, shared reality, shared power--none of which were true of her current relationship. 

She began to call attorneys from her work phone so her husband wouldn't find out. She visited them on her lunch hour. She wrote checks at the grocery store that were for over the bill amount and got cash back which she put away in an account at a different bank with her own name on it. She got a credit card in her own name to start building her own credit history. And on her lunch breaks she started looking at apartments. She got a disposable phone and kept it hidden, making her calls (to apartment managers, attorneys, moving companies) that wouldn't appear on their phone bill. She did it one step, one appointment, one phone call at a time so she wouldn't get overwhelmed. 

Then, when her husband left on a weekend business trip, she "lit out". She also got a restraining order to protect herself both physically and emotionally--knowing that he would try to manipulate her into returning (knowing that the average number of times a woman leaves an abuser before leaving permanently is anywhere from 7 to 12--and each times she returns, the abuse gets worse). 

Now her son is back to getting straight 'A's' and is applying to college. She found healthy adult male role models for him and he did some personal therapeutic work of his own, since they both suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of the abuse. But they have both gone beyond recovery and are now thriving, leading healthy, productive lives.

How can we help your organization?
Please visit our website: www.losaltoscfo.org/womensv and consider donating. Large or small, every contribution helps. We need money for disposable phones, personal supplies (for women who have fled), hard copies of our directory (which is on the website as well), brochures, flyers, domestic violence books for our lending library, etc.

LACF (Los Altos Community Foundation) is our fiscal sponsor and is a 501 (c) 3 so every donation is tax deductible (if it’s a check, just write “WOMEN~SV) in the memo line. Thank you!

Address:
WOMEN~SV
c/o LACF
183 Hillview Ave.
Los Altos, CA 94022

What books, movies, or songs realistically illustrate domestic abuse?
Books: Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” and “When Dad Hurts Mom”
Movies: The Burning Bed, Sleeping With the Enemy, This Boy’s Life

Is there a local organization you know that’s doing great things in the community to help victims of domestic abuse? Drop us a line. We’d love to support their cause.

 


 


 

Ruth pointed out that our usual impression of a "wife beater" is an impoverished drunken man living in trailer.  However, the statistics bear out the fact that there is a high level of domestic violence against more affluent, highly educated women.  Ruth is developing the Women of Means Escape Network (WOMEN).  Many more affluent women, including many women in the tonier neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, are subjected to domestic violence.  Ruth also pointed out other problems such as financial abuse, and emotional abuse.  Ruth spoke about the pattern of coercive control, and "death by 1000 cuts."  The cycle of violence usually continues into a downward spiral until there is a serious, often life-threatening event.  Ruth stated that it's all about power and control.
 
She pointed out that in 2011 the deaths from domestic violence had risen to 16 from only 5 the year before in Santa Clara County.
 
Ruth is just getting her project off the ground, and is being supported by the Community Foundation.  The program is also supported by the Los Altos police chief, Tuck Younis, and local politicians, Joe Simitian, and Anna Eshoo.  Ruth encouraged all of the members of Rotary to contact her for further information and to let her know if they can provide support.
 


 

What drew you to the field? How did you become involved?

I had a couple of close friends who gradually opened up to me about the domestic violence they were experiencing—professional women in nice homes in nice neighborhoods. They had a hard time getting services because the general perception was that domestic violence doesn’t happen in nicer neighborhoods. At the time I was working on a project at a local teaching hospital, interviewing doctors and therapists to create a curriculum for young women with eating disorders, then went out into the school districts and taught it. I found some of the children distracted in class, sometimes even being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD when they were really just focused on the trauma and chaos that was happening in the home. I decided to find out more about domestic violence and this apparent lack of help for women in middle to upper income areas. I interviewed over 30 providers in the field of domestic violence and they all confirmed the gap in services for women in this population. Children are the hidden victims of abuse and I was determined to do what I could to address the source of the suffering.

 

Why do abusers abuse?

Abuse is a learned behavior, a choice. It is not an anger issue, a result of stress, drugs, or the economic situation. If an abuser is beating his partner (“his” because 85-95% of DV victims are female) and someone comes to the door, he is very capable of turning off the abusive behavior instantly and slipping back into that public/social image that is so at odds with his behavior behind closed doors. And the abuser gets plenty of reinforcement for his behavior—he gets to dominate the home, avoid domestic chores and responsibilities, show up only when he feels like it, and be treated like a king, a master with no repercussions for his behavior. For an abuser, it often really is “all about them”.

 

Is it the victim’s fault?

Abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault. The abuser will generally blame the victim and through this blame and constant criticism can often end up making her believe it is all her fault: if she weren’t so “lazy/sloppy/late/stupid”, etc. he wouldn’t have to act this way. But the truth is he DOESN’T ever have to act that way. There is always a choice—HIS choice—to act with compassion or contempt, gentleness or cruelty, shared power or domination and control.

 

Are there victims who’ve broken the cycle and what made the difference?

Yes there are victims who succeed in breaking the cycle. It helps tremendously to have a trusted friend to confide in, someone to give them that first inkling that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Personal counseling can help (not marriage counseling which typically only makes the abuse worse). Therapy can help strengthen her self-esteem, process what’s being done to her, and help her realize that she doesn’t deserve the abuse and there is a way out. Putting money aside secretly and becoming financially independent can also give her the means, strength, and courage to leave. And considering the effect the abuse is having on her children—everything from headaches, stomachaches, and a drop in school performance to getting into drugs as a way of self-medicating, and bullying or victim behavior. 1 in 3 children who witness abuse in the homes will grow up to become victims or abusers themselves. Rather than “staying for the sake of the children”, it is often healthier and safer to leave for the sake of the children.

How can they find help safely?
Getting a disposable phone can help (as long as she can keep it hidden), as well as contacting a lawyer who has experience representing abused women. Lawyers can graduate from law school with no training in domestic violence, so it’s important to find those with experience. It’s vital that she not tell her abuser if she is thinking of leaving him—he will see that as a loss of control and will go to great lengths to re-assert that control often putting her physical safety in jeopardy. But experienced counselors and lawyers can help her create a safety plan to deal effectively with these risks.

What are common myths and misconceptions about victims?
They must come from dysfunctional families.
They must enjoy it—otherwise they would just leave.
They can’t be very smart or well-educated or have successful careers.
They don’t live in middle to upper income areas.
They don’t really want to leave.
They are at least partly to blame.

What are the signs of physical abuse?
A woman who is “accident prone”, reticent about physical contact, unexplained bruising/injuries.

What are the signs of non-violent abuse?
More useful terms might be “emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, financial” forms of abuse—the scars from this kind of abuse can last a lifetime and it does violence to a person’s spirit, crushing it slowly but inevitably over time. Victims of abuse are exposed to the same types of coercive control and torture that are used on prisoners of war and the effects on them are very similar.They become hesitant, startle easily, show signs of  PTSD; their self-esteem plummets; they develop depression, anxiety, physical health issues, possibly drug or alcohol addiction as a way of self-medicating; they withdraw from friends and family (one of the abuser’s tactics is often to isolate the victim); they lose their “joie de vivre”; and friends and family begin to comment that they are “not the same person”, there has been a deterioration in almost every area of their life. Their work may be affected as well—it’s difficult to concentrate when they are distracted by the stress and trauma of a chaotic home life.

What can friends and family do to help?
Tell her she is NOT alone, she does NOT deserve the abuse and there are people who can help. Be there to listen, support, and offer suggestions—but don’t ever judge her or tell her to “just leave”.

What can the public do to help?
Donate to domestic violence organizations—they are under-funded and over-burdened often having to turn clients away. Support domestic violence education programs in schools, workplaces, and in the community.

Tell us more about the greatest success story you’ve seen.
A woman who was severely abused emotionally and physically by her partner of 20 years, freed herself from the abuse, and went on to become a highly successful business woman. She is in a new relationship now with a loving, compassionate man. It can happen!

What propelled this woman to leave was realizing the damage it was doing to her son-- he had become depressed to the point of being suicidal, had gone from being a straight A student to failing every class. She realized that it wasn't helping to keep the family intact. The family was already broken, and the healthiest, safest thing she could do for her son was to leave and take him with her. In terms of leaving her abuser, she couldn't do it for herself, but she could do it for her son--in fact she realized she had to do it for her son. She talked to a trusted friend who encouraged her, found another friend who had left an abusive relationship and gone on to a happier life. She contacted a counselor and began therapy which helped her realize the abuse wasn't her fault and she deserved better treatment. She learned to re-define what love means--mutual respect, compassion. forgiveness for mistakes, shared reality, shared power--none of which were true of her current relationship. 

She began to call attorneys from her work phone so her husband wouldn't find out. She visited them on her lunch hour. She wrote checks at the grocery store that were for over the bill amount and got cash back which she put away in an account at a different bank with her own name on it. She got a credit card in her own name to start building her own credit history. And on her lunch breaks she started looking at apartments. She got a disposable phone and kept it hidden, making her calls (to apartment managers, attorneys, moving companies) that wouldn't appear on their phone bill. She did it one step, one appointment, one phone call at a time so she wouldn't get overwhelmed. 

Then, when her husband left on a weekend business trip, she "lit out". She also got a restraining order to protect herself both physically and emotionally--knowing that he would try to manipulate her into returning (knowing that the average number of times a woman leaves an abuser before leaving permanently is anywhere from 7 to 12--and each times she returns, the abuse gets worse). 

Now her son is back to getting straight 'A's' and is applying to college. She found healthy adult male role models for him and he did some personal therapeutic work of his own, since they both suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of the abuse. But they have both gone beyond recovery and are now thriving, leading healthy, productive lives.

How can we help your organization?
Please visit our website: www.losaltoscfo.org/womensv and consider donating. Large or small, every contribution helps. We need money for disposable phones, personal supplies (for women who have fled), hard copies of our directory (which is on the website as well), brochures, flyers, domestic violence books for our lending library, etc.

LACF (Los Altos Community Foundation) is our fiscal sponsor and is a 501 (c) 3 so every donation is tax deductible (if it’s a check, just write “WOMEN~SV) in the memo line. Thank you!

Address:
WOMEN~SV
c/o LACF
183 Hillview Ave.
Los Altos, CA 94022

What books, movies, or songs realistically illustrate domestic abuse?
Books: Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” and “When Dad Hurts Mom”
Movies: The Burning Bed, Sleeping With the Enemy, This Boy’s Life

Is there a local organization you know that’s doing great things in the community to help victims of domestic abuse? Drop us a line. We’d love to support their cause.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Domestic Abuse Awareness - Kudos to Hope's Door in Texas

Stand Up and Speak Out
Milestones Communications is a small PR firm that works with groups large and small, corporate and non-profit. We also are active in community service, volunteerism and working pro bono for causes near and dear.
 
This year, we wanted to commit to helping raise awareness about domestic abuse. Why this cause and why now? Because we believe our homes should be a place of safety, love, respect and admiration – for all.  

Putting an End to Domestic Abuse

We were moved to action after seeing an Associated Press report that indicated 1 in 4 women had suffered at the hands of someone they loved and trusted, someone they’d lived with or had been in a relationship with. The number was startling to most – to all except those who work with the victims. And they, across the board, knew the numbers were higher than most of us imagined. The acts of violence included murders, beatings, rapes and stalking along with strikes and blows, pushes, shoves and threats thereof. We realized then that the number of women, children and men who also experienced domestic abuse of all sorts had to, likewise, be beyond our comprehension.
Consider this:
  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States
  • Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life
  • 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in college
  • Women who have experienced DV are 80% more likely to have a stroke, 70% more likely to have heart disease, 60% more likely to have asthma and 70% more likely to drink heavily than women who have not

As we gave thought to the unsettling statistics, we realized that we personally knew of those affected. Perhaps not our BFF revealing blow-by-blow accounts of the latest cut, bruise or blow, but a relative who has changed over time, a friend who doesn’t have the same zest for life, a colleague who’s more withdrawn, a church member who’s nice but distant. Chances are you know someone who’s having a tough time at home. Their lives may be in jeopardy, they may live in fear, walk on eggshells. Maybe not violent pushing and shoving - perhaps their reality is more subtle and socially acceptable  - but a string of stress-producing incidents, nonetheless, that keep one on edge and in constant fear that wears one out over time.

Do you know someone who’s the victim of domestic abuse?

If not, we’d wager it’s only because they aren’t talking. And that’s precisely why domestic abuse has the power to make so many feel so powerless. Because those abused live in fear – of saying something that will set the abuser off, doing something that will set off a series of attacks, looking or responding in a way that “invites” whatever it is that follows. Too often, the abuser puts on a happy face for the rest of the world but those closest to them encounter a snarling face who somehow believes that they can make themselves feel better by making others feel worse.

As we took to heart the sobering statistics, we came to the conclusion that none of us should accept or minimize abuse in any form. Those who are abused don’t speak up and don’t seek help because they feel they can’t. The first step in understanding their pain - be it physical, mental or emotional - is learning more about it. From there, we can lend our compassion, our care and concern, critical resources and most of all, intolerance for the inexcusable, the unacceptable and the unfathomable. Knowing what to look for will make it more difficult for those committing abuse to continue on unnoticed, unaccountable, or unconcerned.
And let’s not make the mistake of thinking that it’s just women. These stats include teens, youths and men.

Our goal is to share more in the months ahead, spotlighting the organizations that work to raise awareness about domestic abuse as well as speak with those most affected.

Yesterday, we talked with the York YWCA in York, PA, near us.
Today, we talk with Kelly Vaughan with Hope's Door in Texas.
Tell us more about your organization.

Hope’s Door is the only agency located in Collin County, Texas that is solely dedicated to providing safety, shelter, healing, and hope to families affected by domestic violence.  Collin County is located north of Dallas and is home to more than 700,000 people.  It is one of the fastest growing counties in Texas.  Hope’s Door was founded in 1986 as a crisis hotline by a group of community volunteers.  Our initial services included the crisis hotline and emergency shelter for victims.  Because we did not acquire our shelter until 1989, our first shelter clients were housed in local hotels.  Our current shelter was gifted to us in 1986 and now holds 21-beds for women and children seeking safe haven from domestic violence.  Our menu of services has expanded to include group and individual counseling for adults and children, transitional housing, legal advocacy, dating violence prevention, community education, and intervention and prevention services for abusers.

The mission of Hope’s Door is to offer intervention and prevention services to individuals and families affected by domestic violence and to provide educational programs that enhance the community’s capacity to respond.  The agency is governed by a 15 member Board of Directors and sheltered more than 300 women and children last year, provided counseling to more than 2,500 adult survivors and child witnesses, and answered more than 1,200 crisis hotline calls. 

What drew you to the field? How did you become involved?
I have been serving area non-profits for more than 13 years as a Director of Development.  I had previously worked in other health and human service agencies and knew of Hope’s Door before becoming their Director of Development in May 2011. 

Why do abusers abuse?
Statistics indicate that 90% of abusers grew up in an abusive environment, so abuse is most often a learned behavior.  Most abusive behavior is based on a set of beliefs that center on controlling one’s partner.  At Hope’s Door, we strongly believe that abusive behavior can be changed by emphasizing accountability and choice.  Everyone has a choice whether or not to be violence, and if you are violent, you must be accountable for that choice.  This is the guiding principle behind our Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP).  This program is an intensive 24-week group counseling program that stresses accountability and choice.  Graduates of this program have an 89% success rate; meaning that they do not re-offend within 2 years of completing the program.

Is it the victim’s fault?
No.  Never.

Are there victims who’ve broken the cycle and what made the difference?
There are indeed victims who have broken the cycle.  The decision to seek help is a very difficult one for a victim, due in large part to the shame that she feels as a victim and the isolation that is often a product of the abuse.  The “tipping point” for victims varies, but for some it is the growing realization that if she does not get help, her abuser will make good on his threats to kill her. For others, it is the understanding that she cannot control the abuse and that it is affecting her children.   

How can they find help safely?
·         Call 911 if you are in danger or need help
·         If you are injured, go to the emergency room for help and REPORT what happened
·         Contact your local domestic violence hotline or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to find out what resources or help is available
·         Keep any evidence of abuse such as torn clothing or photos of bruising or injuries
·         Plan the safest time to get away
·         Keep the following items with someone you trust
o   Spare set of keys
o   Birth certificates
o   Driver’s license
o   Social security cards
o   Prescriptions/medications
o   Passports
o   Checkbook
o   Money
o   Clothing
o   Shot records
·         Plan a safe place to meet with your children such as a neighbor’s house

Can you share more about the greatest success story you've seen?


"Marie" came to the emergency shelter late one night with her two children. She had just endured another horrific fight with her husband and the police convinced her that now was the time to leave. She made her escape while he was in custody, arriving from the police station with her purse and her kids in their pjs. They were all scared and tired. The next morning, Marie got up early, washed and ironed the clothes she had on the night before and walked to a near-by clothing store and asked them for a job. She knew she had to start a new life- and that started with getting a job to support her kids. The store manager hired her and she worked a full day while the kids were in school. Marie and her family stayed in the shelter for 30 days and then moved into a new apartment as a part of our transitional housing program. She stayed in that program for 18 months, during which time her rent was subsidized and she attended a support group and financial literacy classes. Her kids attended group and individual counseling too, learning the self-confidence to stand up for themselves and stop the cycle of abuse. While in the transitional housing program, Marie was able to save enough money to purchase her own home when she left the program. She is so proud of her forever home - one that she made possible for herself and her children. Marie now acts as a mentor for other survivors of domestic violence.
 

What are common myths and misconceptions about victims?
The most common myth about domestic violence victims is that they are weak and that they did something to deserve the abuse.  People who endure domestic violence or abuse in any form are never to blame for the abuse.  Another common myth is that it only happens to poor people or women.  Domestic violence happens to all types of people; all colors, classes, education levels, in any relationship – gay or straight; male or female.

What are the signs of physical abuse?
Forms of physical abuse include:

·         Pushing, shoving, being held against your will
·         Slapping, biting, kicking, choking, hitting, punching, having things thrown at you
·         Rape or forced sex
·         Threatening or hurting you with an object or a weapon

What are the signs of non-violent abuse?
Other abusive behaviors:

·         Subjecting you to reckless driving
·         Jealousy, anger, accusing you of having sex with others
·         Insulting or driving away family and friends; isolation
·         Public or private humiliation
·         Punishing or depriving the children when mad at you; abusing pets
·         Keeping you from working or refusing to work; controlling your money
·         Continual criticism, name calling, shouting
·         Insulting your beliefs, religion, race or class

What can friends and family do to help?
Let the victim know that it is not their fault; that you are there to help; that they are not alone; do not be judgmental of her choices or decisions to stay; ASK how they are doing or if they need help

What can the public do to help?
Be aware that domestic violence is occurring in your community; advocate for survivors in your area; support your local domestic violence shelter with your time, talent and treasure.

How can we help your organization?
This opportunity to educate your readers about Hope’s Door is incredibly valuable to us!  Thank you!  To learn more about us or to make a donation you can visit www.hopesdoorinc.org.

Is there a local organization you know that’s doing great things in the community to help victims of domestic abuse? Drop us a line. We’d love to support their cause.