One of the effect we are often seeing with abused women is that they have been told for so long that they have no value that they are worthless, hopeless, stupid. One woman told me that everyday he would say to her well your no better than a crash dummy. And that's how important you are. And then they also say things like nobody cares about you and you are so ....She starts believing that and it takes a whole lot of work on her part to overcome that and sometimes people in the community don't necessarily understand. Part of our job as a society is to support her to reinforces her value to notice that she may be having problems offer her assistance refer her to programs like we have here in Northwest Arkansas--
What should a person know about leaving an abusive situation?
We suggest if at all possible try to call us any time during the night or day and do some planning with us some safety planning because the most dangerous time for a woman is when she is leaving. That's part of what happens with domestic abuse it's about power and control. And when shes leaving he's loosing control and that's when the most violent acts happen or when the highest incidents of even homicide occur. If at all possible we suggest we help her do some planning some safety planning, but if the only way to get out is just with the clothes on her back..and bring her children then come on and we will help her. We can help her replace her documents we can get her clothing we can get her a place to live and furniture.
What types of people will you accept in shelter does age, sex, gender any of that matter?
We have a full range of residents and clients in our shelter people of all sexual persuasions, gender. We assist men if they are in a situation. We don't have shelter here for them but we can assist them in getting safe shelter and all our programs are available to them.
What do you want people to know who may have concerns they won't be believed?
We believe the women who come to us we do not question her about what happened or what she needs. Our job is to support her on her path on her quest to find safety and independence and empowerment for her and her and her kids.
How many times does it take someone to leave and why do you think it takes so many attempts?
People talk all the time about 7 times leaving. Personally I think if you do provide real services in terms of the kind of help that helps her afford to support herself and her kids that reduces the number of times that she leaves, but the fact is after she's been in shelter for at least the first year its really lot of things come up. You're all of a sudden a single mom and on top of that you may have a lot of court issues going on. You may have a lot of residual negative effects from the abuse and the consequences of all that and so its very important to have support and we are happy when we can keep in touch with people even two years afterword(after leaving shelter). The fact of the matter is no matter when all is welcome to call or come to us again sometimes we will have a woman call you know two or three years latter and say I want you to meet my fiancé because i want you to check him out and make sure he's okay.
What are some of the things you have in the shelter to help these families get back on their feet?
We are really happy to be able to provide the computers we have the training programs we have support groups, assistance with finding jobs, housing all kinds of resource.
How important is community support?
You know i've often thought for so many women so fragile their economic situation and their emotional situation that everything working they get the kids to child care they are getting to school they are getting to their job they are getting home but then the fuel pump breaks. So that little thing for lack of a hundred dollars may toss their whole family into chaos. She looses her car.....and actually even make her feel like she needs to return to support her kids rather than do that call us and see if we can help. For the community this is the kind of thing we face and we'd love to have your help and be able to make sure that 100 dollars is there for her. We have a victims direct assistance fund that 100-percent of those dollars go for those kind of emergencies and help ensure that a woman is not returning to an abuser because she can't afford to feed herself and her kids.
Can people feel safe in shelter when the locations not a secret?
We were excited to move to a public facility. We felt like all these years of the women being the ones that are hiding out and that, that enhanced the feeling they were in the shadows of shame and that they had done something wrong and the abusers were walking free. So, we were very interested in bringing this hole issue public and having a facility that people in the community know about like a hospital or a church and you know the shelter. That meant we had to hae excellent security which we do. You know obviously I Don't want to go into all the details of the security but its level upon level upon level of security to ensure our clients can be here and they can have confidential services. People from the public won't see their cars. They won't see whose here, but they also are safe and their children are safe and that's something that took a great deal of thought you know experts and investment in order to ensure that but the reward of that is you know women are feeling really proud and I think we are going to see more and more women like the ones you've been able to have come forward and say I survived this and i'm not ashamed of what happened to me and im proud of what i did to protect myself and my children.
What do you hope to get from the community?
Well first recognizing that it's occurring and that its occurring all around them. I don't think there's a person in Northwest Arkansas who if they opened their eyes hasn't known somebody whose experienced family violence and most people even probably have someone somewhere in their life that's currently experiencing it. What i'd like to see... our community come together and say no zero tolerance for violence of any kind we don't want violence between criminals and we want to be safe in our homes and we certainly want to see our women and kids protected in their homes as well. Id like to see support for the prosecutors the police the courts to be able to do their job and put abusers in jail hold them accountable for their crimes. I'd like ours and our services be supported by our community so that we aren't running out of resources to help women take that journey of independence.