Not an ideal world to step out to - but we can build a bridge of hope

You've seen all the awareness material -
All the public service announcements -
The ones where they urge victims of domestic violence to reach out for help - and then appears a national hotline. One, that when called, will refer a caller to a local domestic violence shelter for help and in an ideal world, everything will be okay - she will find her way out with help.

Don't count on it.

I am not saying that to sound cynical, rather I am being practical-

I want everyone out there to realize a few things -

1) It takes approximately (on average) 7 attempts to leave before a victim makes that final step in never returning back to the abuse.

2) There are good domestic violence advocacy organizations out there and then there are some not so good ones. Shelters are often at capacity, which means that victims may or may not have a roof when they leave. Sometimes they may receive a voucher for a motel room - a motel room where they will sit, alone (maybe with the kids), without support around them during those toughest times. Too much time to think - feel - fear.

3) Resources in any given community are lacking funding - budget cuts have dwindled away at that bottom line on how much they can do.

4) Advocates - some are inexperienced, fresh out school or have real life experience with the wisdom of age,  either one may or may not be the right fit.  Remember, all humans are flawed.

5) Love - even if you don't understand why or how - walking away from someone you think you love is not as easy as "just leave."

Now, having said all that and you reading this I want you to understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time in that relationship and that victim trying to be a survivor will need your understanding of what they face when they do leave as it is taking all the courage in them to make that step.

I have been that victim -
The survivor -
That advocate -
And, that member of an organization trying to get funding to meet the needs

I've seen it, lived it - at all angles. I understand what it is like to fall through the holes in the system, fight for the thread to repair those holes, and then also try to weave it all together. I've advocated for myself, for others, and then even found myself being an advocate up against advocacy organizations trying to get the services they say they provide.

Believe me when I say it is not an ideal world - BUT, each one of us can make the bridge to hope stronger by understanding saying "just leave" means we all have work to do so she/he can.

1) If she/he goes back to the abuser - DON'T JUDGE. Remember, leaving is a process - it takes time.

2) Get to know the resources in your area so when they do leave, you can help guide them on who to call and what to expect - surprises of disappointment will send an already worn out person back to what they know, even if it is abuse.

3) Help them with a safety plan - here's a useful guide from the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Oregon

4) Listen to them with an open ear  -they will need to vent. Sit with them when they can't. Be there -but realize only they can make the decisions for their life. DO NOT TAKE OVER. Guiding is leading in situations like this.

A child learning to walk will fall but eventually will find the strength to stand on their own two feet. Those being abused have been worn down -  they need to find their footing - be patient and they will...

And remember - it is not an ideal world they are stepping out to but all of us can make that bridge to hope a little sturdier -be present.


Kim Torchy said…
Amen - this is so true and not publicized. DV organizations can be very judgmental; they don't tell you there's a time limit for your stay and most communities lack resources to provide you with an affordable place to go when your time is up. There are "advocates' in some places who don't even know how the social services system works (I had one who didn't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid and though food stamps were still actually paper coupons). I've been at shelters were the workers and volunteers took the donations intended for the residents. The whole system, while good intentioned, doesn't work as it should and part of that is state and federal social service programs not being funded well enough; part is also a lack of education and training in domestic violence and the dynamics of the relationship: how it all centers on power and control.

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