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Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to School Lessons – Teen Relationships 101



Autumn is my favorite time of year, not because of colorful leaves and pumpkin-spice lattes (although they are pretty awesome), but because it’s back-to-school time!   During the school year, I provide teen dating violence education to teens in high schools, middle schools, colleges, youth-serving agencies, and church groups.  Within classroom and group settings, I teach learning activities and lead conversations about what makes a good dating relationship.   Working with teens is challenging, thought-provoking, often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, and never dull, but I love it because I get to make a difference in young people’s lives.

Freshman (or 7th grade) jitters should include the normal stuff - navigating a new school, remembering that locker combination, meeting new friends   – but not dealing with an abusive relationship!  However, the teen years are when most people experience their first serious relationships and, for 1.5 million high school students nationwide, those relationships include emotional and physical abuse.  College students also experience dating violence, with 43% of college women reporting violent and abusive dating partners.  College-level dating violence is also more likely to include digital dating abuse and college students often feel isolated from support systems that can protect against abusive partners.

Teen dating violence can be the gateway to lifelong abuse.  As they begin dating, teens learn about adult relationships.  If that first partner is abusive, a teen can learn the wrong messages about love.  The two most dangerous dating messages for teens are: 1) jealousy equals love, and 2) if my partner hits me (out of jealousy), he/she must really love me.  Abusers use these beliefs to perpetuate patterns of emotional, physical, and sexual violence towards their partners under the guise of love.  The end results are staggering.  The highest rates of intimate partner violence for women in the United States occur between the ages of 16-24, a rate of about one in three.  The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater when the abuse pattern begins in adolescence.  The cycle of abuse can put a teen at higher lifetime risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behaviors, STDs, teen pregnancy, suicide, and death (at the hands of the abuser).   

Abusers use a methodical process of jealousy, manipulation, and control to isolate their partners from support systems so that friends, family, and others are unaware of what is happening.  Most teens suffer in silence, with only 33% telling someone about the abuse.   Often, family and friends don’t recognize warning signs until the abuse becomes severe.  By this time, the teen may react to parental intervention with denial and resistance, even when they truly are terrified of the partner.   At the same time, the abuser may escalate the abuse and threats towards the teen and family as his/her control is challenged.  In many cases, abusive teen relationships end when parents seek an order of protection on behalf of their teen to stop the violence, threats, and stalking by the abuser.

In spite of the sobering statistics on teen dating violence, there is hope.  Prevention education works.  Although stereotyped as know-it-alls who are uninterested in any information from adults, teens do want respectful relationships and do listen when they are treated with respect.  Dove offers accurate information on healthy teen relationships vs. domestic violence in a fun, engaging, interactive, and non-judgmental way.   The purpose of Dove’s presentations is prevention - giving teens the information and tools to set boundaries with others, share mutually respectful relationships, plan for safety, and recognize and avoid abusive relationships.  For those teens already involved in abusive relationships, Dove offers counseling, personal advocacy, help with orders of protection, and parental support.    

Working with teens is so rewarding!  I love watching the learning process in the classroom as teens hear, debate, and absorb information on respectful relationships.  However, it’s after class when the hard work begins and teens reach out with their own private concerns:  a disclosure of pain inflicted by a verbally abusive girlfriend; a question about how to end a violent relationship with a long-term boyfriend; a group of teens expressing concern about a friend’s safety; or a teen disclosing abuse at home.  Each teen is seeking someone who believes them, validates their experiences and feelings, and supports that instinct that is telling them it’s time to get out.    Each receives support and services personalized to his or her situation.  The feedback I receive from parents and teens about Dove’s influence usually comes in the form of a story – a teen who broke off an abusive relationship; one who avoided dating an abuser by recognizing the warning signs; a group of friends who helped another friend get away from an abusive partner; a teen who finally broke free from an extremely controlling partner who is now reaching out to help other friends. 

Here are some warning signs to help family and friends recognize that a teen may be in an abusive relationship:

  • Afraid of partner’s temper
  • Afraid to break up because partner threatens to hurt self or others
  • Constantly apologizing for or defending partner’s behavior
  • Afraid to disagree with partner
  • Constantly monitored by partner (cell phone, digital monitoring/stalking)
  • Isolated from family and friends
  • Embarrassed in front of others because of partner’s words or actions
  • Intimidated by partner and coerced into having sex

An abusive partner often exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Explosive temper
  • Possessive or jealous of partner’s time, friends, and/or family
  • Constantly criticizes partner’s thoughts, feelings, or appearance
  • Pinches, slaps, grabs, shoves, or throws things at partner
  • Coerces or intimidates partner into having sex
  • Blames partner for his/her own anger and behaviors
  • Causes partner to be afraid
  • Uses tears and/or threats of suicide to manipulate any situation

Dove is available 24/7 to answer questions and work with teens and families dealing with abusive relationships.  Schools and youth leaders are invited to call to request presentations for their teens.  Dove can be reached at www.doveinc.org or at 217-423-2238. 

Another great resource for teens and parents to learn more about teen dating violence is Love Is Respect, the National Teen Dating Abuse Help Line (www.loveisrespect.org).  The website offers an emergency hotline (1-866-331-9474) statistics, safety planning information, videos, quizzes, and parent information. 

Dating during the teen years sets the stage for an individual’s adult relationships.  Dove strives to teach teens skills for healthy relationships, but is there to help them if things go wrong.  Every teen (and adult) deserves a great relationship – and great relationships are all about respect.

Joyce Kirkland

Youth and Family Services Coordinator

Dove Domestic Violence Program

Friday, August 19, 2016

Yes, we're counting the days till Christmas!


It’s hard to believe, but as of this blog post, there are only 128 days until Christmas. Yes, you read that right. 128. The year has gone by very quickly and it’s approaching the time of year for the Christmas Baskets Program.

 

This year the preliminary work for the program began again in June, and already we’ve seen quite a few donations of things – from toiletries for hygiene bags, to toys for kids, to large donations of brand new books, to stockings and blankets and jewelry. 

 

We’ve also been busy recruiting new agencies to work with in order to help as many people as we can. This year I’m excited to announce we’ll be working with the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, the Cancer Care Center, the Special Olympics, and the YMCA. We’ll be providing these agencies with referrals for their clients and patients to receive baskets and we’re very excited to be doing so.

 

Each year we provide baskets to around 350 families in the area, and this doesn’t include the families who get adopted by individuals, families and groups. Each basket includes a full holiday meal for each family, hats and gloves for each adult and child in the household,  a stocking for everyone, and a toy/gift for each child.

 

There’s a lot of work to be done, and we can always use all the help we can get. There are also a lot of different ways that you or your family or friends or group can get involved from now until basket delivery day. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Christmas Baskets Program, please contact Angie at 217-428-6616.



Angie Williams is a member of the Domestic Violence Staff and loves all things Christmas.  She heads up the Dove effort on our part of the Dove and Northeast Community Fund Annual Christmas Basket Drive.  Watch the website and our facebook page for other news on the Drive.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Insights on the New Job Training Program


My name is Addie Smith and I am the new employment and life skills specialist here at Dove, Inc. I work within the Homeward Bound Transitional Housing and Supportive Services program where I teach life skills and jobs club classes. I also co-supervise a Job Training Program that consists of four positions that are filled by clients in the Transitional Housing program. Two positions are janitorial based at our Homeward Bound Facility and the Domestic Violence Shelter. The other two positions are focused on lawn care and building maintenance and clients perform all the landscaping at our facility and the apartments we own.

Being fresh out of college, I experienced the struggles that life sometimes throws at you and trying to navigate solutions to those issues has helped me to teach my life skills classes as well as learn with the clients as I go.

I have been a worker all of my life since the ripe age of twelve years old, walking up and down corn fields picking those pesky tassels. From there I started working in a nursing home where I learned all about working with people along with how to behave in a professional environment. During my time at Millikin, I left the nursing home behind and began working at Millikin University’s career center where I learned a lot about networking, building resumes and crafting cover letters. I have been able to take my work experience paired with my knowledge from working in the career center and utilize it in my jobs club courses and the job training program.

With the job training program being new, it has been a wonderful experience being a part of something new and incorporating my ideas along with the ideas of others that I work with. The goal is for the clients who graduate the program to go on and get a job with another facility that is long term. I see this being a very positive experience for those clients who participate.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Letter From Dove's July Newsletter


This month has an air of celebration about it.  Celebrating our nation’s independence, celebrating 46 years of Dove’s work in central Illinois, and having - after a year-long stalemate - a partial state budget.  Indeed, we have plenty to celebrate.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the state budget since its passage Thursday, most of which I cannot answer. The state budget is both a saving grace and a daunting challenge to our future. So when I am asked these questions, my mind draws from the text of The Gospel According to Mark 12:13-17. 

In today’s Illinois there is a role for both government and God to play in how we focus our efforts to relieve human suffering.  Our mission at Dove has become a work of God largely paid for by Caesar (or in this case the US and Illinois governing bodies, and ultimately the taxpayers). The challenge of being a faith-based organization in this circumstance, is making sure that we continue to focus on our mission and steady ourselves for the budgetary ebbs and flows which surround us. 

One way to do this is to create pathways by which we are assured that we can continue the mission, even after the stop-gap budget expires in just 6 short months.  I have been reaching out to local congregations, churches, organizations, and groups to share the message that caring about this people of this area is our job, and our responsibility.  We need to coordinate, collaborate, and pool resources. We need to focus on local and private support.

If you or your organization’s members are ready, please reach out to our Volunteer & Community Relations Director, Barb Blakey.  Dove, Inc. is only as strong as its member organizations, volunteers and advocates.  It is my sincere hope that you will be a part of making our home a self-sustaining community free of human suffering.

Sincerely,
Christine Gregory
Executive Director of Dove

Friday, July 29, 2016

It Is A Pattern


Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior which is designed to keep the victim, or victims, of the abuser under the power and control of the abuser.    The word pattern is a crucial word in the definition.  The word pattern indicates that this is a long-term problem, not an isolated incidence of anger which erupts in a verbal or even physical altercation.  The words power and control indicate that during this long-term process, the victim is robbed of his or her ability to make their own decisions and choices and to control the direction of their lives.  Children ask their parents for permission to do thing; adults should not require “permission” to make phone calls, go to the store, etc.  This is the norm in most domestic violence relationships, however.  Permission must be requested and for the most part it is never granted.   Victims who have lived this way for a long time have no idea how to make choices or decisions, let alone good ones.  Their self-esteem is shattered; they have been told for so long that they are incapable of doing anything right that they are often afraid to make even the simplest decisions.  Most often, they have been completely isolated from any sort of a support system, family, friends, or otherwise.  All of these factors combine to make it very difficult for a victim to make a decision to leave the relationship, let alone make the choices necessary to carry out such a plan.

This is the state that many victims are in when they first make contact with our program.  Perhaps a friend or family member was able to convince them that they needed assistance to leave the nightmare that has been their existence.  More likely, however, is that there has been an unfortunate incident and/or some contact with law enforcement or the judicial system.   At this point, there are many decisions that need to be made by the victim to insure the safety and well-being of their family and for them.  Imagine coming to this point in your life, with absolutely no decision making skills.  This is where our advocacy is so important.  Many times, our clients when they first present to us, have no idea they are victims of domestic abuse, victims of a crime.  They have little or no experience with the judicial system, and if they do have experience with it, the experiences were likely not positive ones.  It is up to us as advocates to point out all of their choices, being sure to explain them all thoroughly and advise them of the possible consequences of each choice.  It is never up to us to make those choices for them, or to try to force them to make a certain choice.  This process may be painful for them, and require a lot of patience on our part, but it is necessary for them to begin the process of reclaiming their own lives.  If we are allowed the privilege of working with them over a period of time, it is rewarding to watch them grow and develop and begin to make decisions…..good, healthy decisions……..for themselves and their families on a regular basis.  When one is used to making decisions and choices, we fail to remember how many of these things we do each day……….choices about when to get up, what to wear, what to eat, how to fill our time…….and on and on.  When a victim has not been allowed to make any decisions, the sheer number of choices they have to make each day can be overwhelming.  Our guidance as their advocates can make their path back to serenity and safety much less complicated.  We must remember to guide them with the respect they have been denied for so long.

This subject has been on my mind lately as I work with a victim who has recently become a client.  I have met with her several times, pointed out all the choices available to her situation, explained the pluses and minuses of each, and the possible consequences of each course of action.  She has begun to make decisions about her situation with an eye to what is best for her and her family.   One decision involved an Order of Protection; she chose not to pursue that relief.  She also has a relationship with another agency, one which has significant power over her at this time.   They disagree with the decision regarding the Order of Protection and have told her that she “has” to get an OP or face the permanent loss of her children.  This is being said, even though the protocol of the agency prohibits this practice, which is much like the behavior of the abuser she is trying to escape.  After spending considerable time calming her and assuring her that I would attempt to deal with this situation  I have begun conversations with the policy-enforcement officials of the other agency, hoping to change this behavior, not only in this case but others in the future.  Again, as advocates, we can make a difference in this fashion.  We may not always have immediate success, but at the very least we are showing our clients that they are not alone any longer.
Susie Kensil
Shelby County Coordinator
Domestic Violence Program

Friday, July 22, 2016

Love Yourself (part 2)


As we continue to examine what it means to love ourselves better in light of healing from domestic violence and moving forward with a more positive sense of self, there are some more practical tools to be implemented that will make a world of difference.  Let’s take a look a few more tangible ways that we can love ourselves better that will hopefully result in a more meaningful life and circle of relationships.

To begin with, we need to begin forgiving our past selves.  Were you born this morning by chance?  If not, CONGRATULATIONS!  You have a past.  With that out of the way, is there any chance that you are perfect in every way?  Still no?  Congrats!  You also have dirt in your past, just like everyone else.  We ALL have a past and those pasts are riddled with good choices, bad choices, successes, failures, wins, losses, mistakes, etc.  You get the point.  Living in the past can only keep you living in your mess.  When you confront your past and begin to forgive yourself of the mistakes made, you can begin to move forward in freedom. 

I want you to picture every big mistake you made.  In light of domestic violence, maybe you got in a relationship you knew wasn’t healthy.  Maybe you stayed in a relationship you knew wasn’t safe.  Maybe you made some poor life decisions that got you caught up in mess like drugs, alcohol, or worse.  It’s possible that in the midst of crisis you took the easy way out and stole to make ends meet, or lied when it was more convenient that facing the truth.  Face it, even good people make big mistakes.  Now imagine that everyone single one of those big mistakes is a piece of luggage.  Some might be little hand bags.  Others might be great big suitcases.  If you are carrying around the burden of your past mistakes, it is like carrying all that luggage around at once with you.  Now picture trying to go to work, pick up your groceries, eat a sandwich, or play with your child.  All that luggage is going to prevent you from doing even the most menial of tasks. 

We can all learn a lesson from this picture, but the cost and burden is probably even greater for those trapped in domestic violence.  It can prevent even the most basic and sensible decisions from being made because the cost of doing so requires too much energy or too much self-esteem.  So ask yourself, what parts of your past are you letting haunt you right now?  Where do you need to forgive yourself and where do you need to forgive and forget?  What is this baggage preventing you from accomplishing in life?  Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for yourself is simply to forgive your past self and love your present self. 

Another practical step toward loving yourself better involves starting to make the changes you know you need to make in your life.  I believe this ties nicely to forgiving your past in part.  As Marc Chernoff writes, “Just because something made you happy in the past doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever.”  We can have a different future if we want it, but we have to change what we are doing.  We’ve all heard that the definition of is doing same thing over and over expecting different results.  We have to change what we are doing in order to get a different result.  We have to change what we allow into our lives in order to gain a different outcome.

Again, when it comes to domestic violence scenarios, there tend to be some changes, big or small, that really do need to be made.  The trouble is that nobody can make those changes but the individual themselves.  And factoring the trauma and even psychological brainwashing that can take place for some, this process can take quite some time.  There might need to be a romantic relationship that needs to be abandoned.  Maybe there is a roommate or friend that needs to be let go.  It can get quite complicated with family involved, but there might be a sturdy set of healthy boundaries that need implemented in order to provide peace.  Someone might even be struggling with the decision to be totally single for a bit so that they stop falling into negative relationships.  There might be bad habits that need dropped, not to mention maybe an addiction or two.  The possibilities are certainly endless. 

So what are some of the things you are doing that cause more damage than good, and can you change it?  What about some of the things you are doing that keep you from making any progress at all, good or bad?  What are some of the things you wish you were doing in life, but you either haven’t gotten there yet or you haven’t that the courage to do?  At the end of the day, even if it costs you a great deal or there is great risk involved, isn’t it still worth it?  Isn’t the possibility of a bright future tied to some risk taking better than a certain bleak or negative one?  Take a chance and start making those changes.  And on that note…

Another very important manner of loving ourselves better is to begin embracing the mistakes we haven’t even made yet.  Einstein famously stated that, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”  That sure is something to chew on.  So, if you’ve made a mistake, then you must be in good company along with all those are trying adventurous new things.  If you have never made a mistake then you either have not lived at all…or you are a liar.  The idea is to not let fear of making mistakes dictate what your future looks like. 

For domestic violence victims, fear is a significant part of the equation.  Mixed with the abusers typical barrage of insults and aforementioned brainwashing, I hear a lot of abused women talk about how they must be the problem, and therefore they should stop trying to change anything since it always results in abuse.  We of course know that the abuse was likely going to happen no matter what the victim did.  I have also heard a fair amount of victims fall prey to the lie that they are terrible, worthless, unwanted people and that nobody else would want them anyway so why try.  They don’t even take a shot at freedom or real future love because they thing it can only end in failure.  Even the fear of not finding anyone else and returning to the abuser looking a fool is a very real issue for some victims.  Breaking the choke hold of fear in your life can be the most empowering event, but it certainly isn’t easy.  But on a positive note, there are many who have overcome failure that we can draw inspiration from.

Michael Jordan, the world’s greatest basketball player ever, was cut from his high school basketball team and cried.  The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studios who said they, “have no future in show business.”  Steve Jobs was unceremoniously removed from a company he started.  Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and original ideas.  Oprah was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.  And Einstein wasn’t even able to speak until he was 4 years old, and his teachers claimed he would never amount to much.

Seeing that list can make you feel like you’re in pretty good company as a failure.  I would take any one of their stories.  Michael Jordan has even famously announced, “I have missed over 9000 shots in my career.  I have lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

The reality is, like Einstein stated, if they had never taken a chance and tried something new, they would never have learned to be great at something.  In a nutshell, success requires failure.  It’s not about preventing the fall, but rather, as Batman’s dad said, it’s about learning how to get back up.  So what are some of your fears and what makes you so afraid of them?  Is it mostly wrapped around failing?  What would you have tried or would like to try if fear of failure didn’t play a role?  If you are a victim of domestic violence, how has fear of failure kept you in abusive relationships?  Do you believe you can embrace your failures, learn from them, and rise to new heights?  I do.  So begin to love yourself in amazing new ways.  Forgive your past, start making some changes, and keep taking healthy risks even when you fail.  Because guess what…you are still worth it.

 

Jared Bohland

Client Services Coordinator

Dove Inc. Domestic Violence Program

 

 

Source material includes 16 Simple Ways to Love Yourself Again, Written by Marc Chernoff

Friday, July 15, 2016

Does Age Matter?


It sure does when you are talking about the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program or (RSVP). Many of our volunteers simply do not fit in the retired or senior category at all. In fact, many volunteers we work with do not fit in society’s view of what it means to be retired or senior.  Volunteers live active lifestyles that happen to include volunteering on top of their own hobbies, families, and friends.  I have had the pleasure of learning so much from some of our RSVP volunteers and I am thankful every day that I get to have contact with such fantastic human beings!!! RSVP volunteers are everywhere from our local hospitals, thrift stores, libraries, and museums, to the senior center, NorthEast Community Fund, and even  Meals on Wheels and that is just to name a few. You must be 55 years of age or older to enroll in our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.  Which makes RSVP an exclusive club with lots of talent and experience that is being shared throughout our communities in both Macon and DeWitt County!!!

Over the years I have seen how the threshold for the title of senior has lowered from 65  all the way down to 50, while the threshold for retirement has increased to 67 years of age and older . Volunteers refer to themselves as, retired, senior, and even ornery but never refer to themselves as elderly. When did that change? I always called anyone older than me my elder and although I still respect my elders I have a much healthier view of what our “older” Americans who become RSVP volunteers really look like.

Because they look like…..more flashlights for the homeless, more cookies for first responders, decorations for appreciation events, and a warm meal served with love, informational hubs like beacons of light,  and much, much more!!  So to answer the question does age matter? You bet your RSVP volunteer it does!!!!


Charlie Gillaspie
RSVP Program Director