As it gets quiet throughout the shelter on a Friday night, I am reminded of how much the staff of Family Abuse Center are dedicated to this great cause.
To each of you:
You work longer hours than you are required because you care and you can’t just stop caring.
You take extra time to talk to our children as they get off the school bus asking how their day was.
You go above and beyond to make sure that field trips and group go as planned.
You pick up that extra piece of trash sitting in the hall way when everyone else just walks on by.
You take your turn cleaning our common areas, so that we can use our money on more important things like helping our clients.
You donate to Family Abuse Center and United Way out of your small check because you believe in what we are doing.
You give a hotline call an extra minute or two because the client needs an extra moment to collect her thoughts.
You believe what seems unbelievable as the clients tell about the horrible situations and experiences that bring them to our shelter.
You close the door once in a while and shed a tear because we can’t always make everything perfect or right.
Sometimes you walk out into the parking lot and scream with rage at the injustice and system that often victimizes our clients again and again.
No one works at Family Abuse Center for the pay or because it is easy. We work here because we believe in the mission. We are dedicated to eliminating domestic violence by sheltering victims and also by raising awareness about domestic violence.
We are working hard to put Family Abuse Center out of business. I pray for the day when our services are no longer needed.
Thank you for all your hard work and your dedication to Family Abuse Center.
The work of Family Abuse Center is difficult. Our clients come to us because of a crisis in their home. Many don’t know where to turn for help. Often they have used up all the family relationships and friendships in the past. Too often they aren’t sure whether they even want help, let alone where do they find the help they need or what kind of help they need. Our job is to provide what they need so they can find long term safety and stability.
One of the first things you learn when you come to work in a domestic violence shelter is that the client is the expert of her own situation. She knows what might trigger a violence and dangerous response from a person, who professes to love her, but also has threatened or harmed her. She knows the details of the situation that no one else knows about or understands. No matter how much she has been beaten, she knows what her dreams are and where she hopes her life will take her. She is the best person to make decisions about her life.
One of the most important gifts that we can give those who come for shelter at Family Abuse Center is a safe place to reflect and assess. During those first 14 days, so many big decisions are made by our clients. Some choose to follow through on offers of assistance from family members. Some choose to go back to their homes and try to make the relationship work. Some leave the state or move to another city. Many become determined to make it on their own. Our job is to give them space to make their own decisions. They don’t need pressure. Some will ask for advice. Many need resources and we can help them find those. Ultimately, they have to make decisions for themselves and their children.
A mother in the shelter recently told me that she wanted to provide for her child and live in a violence free home on her own. Some days she wakes up feeling confident and secure. She is ready to take on the world. But some days, she is fearful. What if she can’t pay the rent? What will happen to her child if she can’t make it? How will she make ends meet with such a low paying job? How can she find hope and support in the community?
Our job is to listen to her. We can’t make promises but we can provide hope and support. We can find resources in our community to help her on those difficult days. Every day I am amazed at the wonderful work of our case managers who know so much about resources in our community and who are so skilled at listening. But more importantly, they make the time to just listen and reassure our clients. In the end, all the decisions need to be made by our clients. But we can make room for them to make the best decision they can for themselves. And we hope that our support and care helps them find their way in the difficult world that they are living in.
9:00-11:00 am on Saturday, June 21, 2014
First Baptist Church of Marlin
For pastors, church staff, or church leaders in Falls and McLennan counties
A free workshop covering the basics of domestic violence as well as ways churches and pastors can help eliminate family violence in their communities. The workshop is put on by the Family Abuse Center. Presenter will be Micah Titterington, M.Div.
- What is Domestic Violence?
- Understanding Our Preconceptions about Domestic Violence
- Abuse of Faith
- How Church Leaders and Congregations Can Help
- Understanding Local Domestic Violence Resources
To register, send an email to Micah at email@example.com by June 18 with the following information:
- Church and Town
- Position in church
- Phone #
- Email address
All too often, our clients will justify the abuser’s violent behavior. The victims tell us that the abuser’s childhood was horrible. He witnessed lots of violence. His mother was beaten in front of him. He heard the screams. He saw the blood. His childhood experiences are now his excuse for his own violent behavior. Sometimes the victim feels badly for the abuser even in the midst of the beating. Domestic Violence can be learned in childhood and passed down from one generation to next.
Several years ago a client arrived at the shelter just barely escaping from a deadly situation. In assessing her current risk, it was clear that this client was in grave danger. We asked if she would feel safe here in the shelter and immediately she said she was afraid even inside the shelter because her abuser knew the location of our confidential and private shelter. He knew because as a teenager, he came to our shelter with his mother who was fleeing a domestic violence situation.
How sad. Instead of learning about mutuality and respect for family members, he learned over the years to be an abuser just like his father. His experience did not stop him from being an abuser. He may have thought that his own choice in life is to either be an abuser or a victim. Perhaps he doesn’t think about it at all, but just lives a violence lifestyle that includes controlling and battering family members.
While we feel great sympathy for those who have experienced child abuser or witnessed domestic violence as children, this past experience is no excuse for someone current violent behavior. Most people are surprised to learn that more than 50% of our clients are children living here with their non-offending parent. This gives us a unique opportunity to help those children who have witnessed domestic violence first hand.
Family Abuse Center has an outstanding Children’s Services department. We provide a healing and therapeutic environment for children to feel safe and start the healing process. Our counselor is available for the children and for parents. Evening group is focused on educational and therapeutic activity that provides a place for children to feel safe and grow. Our homework lab assists our school age kids at maintaining and enriching their education. Our Children’s Service Coordinator makes sure that every child’s birthday is remembered and celebrated. Special activities and field trips are planned throughout the year. Summer time in the shelter is a special time for swimming and outdoor fun. We do everything we can so that the little girls who live in the shelter avoid being adult victims. We do everything we can so that little boys have other options than being abusers.
Breaking the generational cycle of abuse is very difficult. For some families there are generations of past violence family interactions. Childhood experiences can never justify violence against another person. Our mission is to eliminate domestic violence. That work often begins with the children who come to the shelter.
Social media has changed everything about the way we communicate. Communication now on social media is quick and wide spread. Just a click of a button and a message is transferred across the world. We are able to track down long lost friends from elementary school, or reconnect with neighbors who moved away years ago. We can post pictures of our children and grandchildren. We can express our political and religious views. We can share humorous videos and jokes. We can “like” and “forward” slogans and comments about all aspects of life.
Too many of us just simply push the like button and affirm something which seems funny at that moment. We often don’t understand the context, and generally social media doesn’t give us the greater context. Perhaps the sender wants to tell their family members they are sorry. Perhaps the sender wants to just laugh at the end of the day. Or maybe the sender wants to make a comment on our culture and society.
After working with domestic violence victims for five years and spending a life time working with women and children who suffer at the hands of others, I know that my view of the world is often cynical or even biased. I can not help but see comments and jokes through the eyes of domestic violence victims. Too often a casual comment, slogan or joke can promote unhealthy relationships at best or dangerous positions at worst. They confirm what an abuser believes about the world. Sometimes the slogan repeats the justification for abuse. Perhaps coming from a healthy home or a violence free family, the comment or slogan looks like a joke. From my perspective, it is reinforcement for a worldview that says control and power belong to the abuser and that victims should just take it. For example, I recently saw a post that something about true love never letting go. That sounds terrific if you are thinking it reinforces a couple’s commitment to work things out. It sounds horrible if you are being stalked.
One in four women in Texas will be abused by someone who says they love them. Yes, there are many people who live in healthy, non-violent relationships. But far too many relationships only have the public face of non-violence. Behind closed doors, control and power, enforced by threats and violence, are the structure of the family. There are so many things that used to be funny before I started this work that are no longer funny. I never want to give the abuser an opportunity to think that what they are doing is justified, necessary or right. I believe that each of us needs to take responsibility for the messages, literally and figuratively, that we send. It may seem right to us, but in sending the message we are endorsing it even in contexts that we can not imagine. So take a few moments before you hit the “like” button. Does the message promote healthy relationships? Would a victim think it is funny? Does the slogan support the abuser or the victim? Never give someone who is abusing another words that can justify abuse. Some things just aren’t funny or inspirational in that context.
Kathy Reid, Executive Director