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.