Thursday, April 26, 2018
Earlier in April, I had the opportunity to participate in a prayer vigil sponsored by HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital here in Shelbyville. As I stood in the crisp, bright sunlight waiting for my turn to speak, I heard the testimony of a brave woman as she spoke to the audience assembled about the abuse she suffered in her childhood. Her story was riveting, her bravery was amazing and the end of her story was happy as she spoke of the people who had been there for her and for her abusive parent. She and her family have a healthy, close relationship now and she raised her kids in a completely different atmosphere. These results are possible when people care and when the cycle of abuse is broken and healthier behaviors are put in place.
Abuse is a learned behavior. It is not caused by anger, by alcohol or by drugs, but these intoxicating substances can certainly heighten its severity. Children and animals are sometimes the “collateral damage” of domestic violence. Usually, mom…and sometimes dad…….is the target of the abuse, but kids are hurt physically as well. Older kids, especially, can be hurt while trying to protect mom. I have heard many victims say “Oh, he never hurts the kids; he is a good dad.” This is definitely not true. The main job Dad has in the relationship is treating Mom well; when he fails to do that he is abusing the entire family. Kids who only hear abuse can be just as traumatized as if it were directed to them. In fact, the emotional “bruises” left on the human psyche may never heal. Bruises and broken bones are likely to heal much faster. The negative comments and attacks on one’s self-worth may not go away. Children pick up on the tensions in the household even if they are not always right in the room where abuse occurs. Don’t ever assume the abuse is a secret from your children. Stories like the one told at the prayer vigil remind us, however, that if the cycle of abuse can be broken, positive change is very possible. Kids are also very resilient and most have an incredible ability to bounce back. At the end of the prayer vigil, the attendees “planted” blue and silver pinwheels on the hospital grounds to signify the hope that can come with the ending of an abusive situation. I drive by the hospital several times each day going to and from my office. Each time I go by I smile at all the happy little pinwheels twirling in the breeze, a timely reminder of what can happen when the cycle of abuse is broken.
I dream of a day when there are no more silver and blue pinwheels in April for Child Abuse Awareness and no more purple ribbons in October as we mourn victims and celebrate survivors of domestic violence. I long for the day when there is no reason for my job to exist. But, in the meantime, what can we all do?? As children, most of us learned to mind our own business and not to tattle on our siblings or our friends. When dealing with abuse…….or suspected abuse………those rules should be ignored. Abuse is my business, and it is your business. If you see or hear something that makes you suspicious, speak up. Law enforcement can do their jobs so much better if we report suspicious behavior rather than ignore it. We can also let suspected victims know that someone cares. At a workshop I attended recently, the speaker pointed out that it takes one caring adult to make a difference in the life of a child who feels that no one cares. If you get a chance to be that one person to someone, please do it.
We can….and we must…..be kind. It is easier to smile than to frown. You will feel better and the target or your smile will feel better. Smiles, like laughter, are contagious. Every person we meet has some struggle we know nothing about; if we can’t solve their problems, we can at least not add to them. The proliferation of negativity in social media and in the political arena has changed our world, and not for the better. We are becoming a cruel and finger-pointing society, fueled by the ability to hide behind a keyboard and say things most people would never dream of saying face to face. We can change this….all of us together…….and simply being kind is a good beginning. Be the change you want to see.
I am reminded of a story I read in a Lenten Devotional about a little girl from the country who was visiting a large city with her family in the early 1900s before electricity was common. She was fascinated watching the lamplighter who was going from street light to street light in the dusk, lighting the gas lamps. She called her mother to the window of the hotel room as she said excitedly, “Look, Mommy, he is poking holes in the darkness”. Take every opportunity you get to poke a hole in someone’s darkness.
Finally, another thing we can do should come naturally to all of us. Mother Teresa long professed that love began and was best taught at home. I close with her words, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”
Shelby County Coordinator
Friday, April 20, 2018
This week we have been celebrating National Volunteer Week. April 15-21 has been a time to honor not only our RSVP Volunteers but all volunteers in our communities. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program was blessed with help from Thrivent Financial grant through Dave Hinkle to help us give generously to others this week. Staff got to deliver pizza lunches for some dedicated volunteers throughout our community. We even had the opportunity to share more about Thrivent Financial by giving T-shirts to random volunteers and thanking them for lending their time, talents, and voices that help to make a big difference in our community.
In addition to pizza delivery RSVP staff were honored to attend the Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards on April 18th where we watched as one of our very own RSVP volunteers Alice Bray received the East Central Illinois Volunteer Service Award in the Senior Corps category for her hard work and dedication to Dove’s Children’s Clothing Room. Alice has served in a wide variety of service opportunities from soup kitchens to board membership to train engineer at Forsyth mall. In October 2004 Alice began her journey at the Dove's Children's Clothing Room because there was such a need for families with children to have access to suitable clothing. Children's clothing is expensive, and children grow so fast. Alice states that she wishes there had been such a thing for her family when she was growing up as well. By January of 2007, Alice was asked to complete the monthly scheduling for the volunteers serving in the Clothing Room. Alice completed the scheduling of all volunteers for more than ten years before graciously handing it over to the next generation of volunteers who will follow Alice's footsteps of service to the Children's Clothing Room to ensure its availability to families for generations to come.
So far, this fiscal year RSVP volunteers have already logged and reported more than 47,000 service hours. The Independent Sector values a volunteer’s time at $26.02 per hour, giving those hours a value of over 1.2 million dollars and our year is not over yet. Volunteers selfless giving and the impact of their time is irreplaceable to Dove, to RSVP, and to our community. To that, we say THANK YOU!
Friday, April 13, 2018
In light of our upcoming Domestic Violence Education and Volunteer Training, I am reminded of the impact education and awareness has in our community. Domestic Violence is such a wide spread issue in our world, and right here in our own community, and yet somehow it still manages to fly under the radar of public perception. We interact with abusers and victims on a regular basis in our everyday lives. We work with them, go to school with them, attend church with them, pass them in the grocery store, and even use the treadmill next to them in the gym (when I go to the gym that is.)
The world is full of wonderful, compassionate, well-meaning people who have absolutely no idea how much injustice surrounds them on a regular basis. In fact, it’s not a bad presumption to assume that most people in this world are only a degree or two separated from someone who is currently in a domestic violence situation. The reality is, this evil hides in plain sight right before our eyes, and many of us simply didn’t have opportunities to learn about what is domestic violence.
In our new Domestic Violence 101 class for domestic violence program clients, we take the time over 15 weeks to talk about every little aspect of what domestic violence can look like and how it affects survivors and victims. In fact, the class was created to meet a need for education beyond the support group setting. It allows us to break down the walls of seeing abuse as only physical violence between a male perpetrator and a female victim. When victims can begin to see the big picture of everything that qualifies as domestic violence, they can begin to relate their situation to it and take steps toward escaping and becoming a survivor.
For these same reasons, the public needs to know what domestic violence is. They need to see it as more than just male against female romantic violence that happens in unrelatable settings or between celebrities and their partners. We as a society need to first recognize physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, social, financial, and spiritual abuse in all its forms and complexities. We need to have an understanding of not just intimate partner violence, but also of child abuse, elder abuse, roommate abuse, human trafficking, and abuse against those with disabilities including caretakers. Realizing just how much is going on out there helps us to widen our lenses and be sensitive to the silent cries for help of our neighbors, family, and friends.
It doesn’t stop there though. Education doesn’t just make us aware of what abuse fully entails, or for that matter all the red flags and signs to look for. Hopefully it challenges us as a society to make a difference, and offers us some insight into the most appropriate form of help we can provide.
As one of the rare men who work in the domestic violence movement, I believe that all men need to be clued into this epidemic and trained on how to make a difference. It’s no mystery that the large majority of perpetrators of violence in this world are men. Now I in no way subscribe to the notion that men are naturally violent, nor do I believe that abusers can never change. I do believe that when men are the primary source of the problem, then we as men in society need to begin to take ownership of that fact and get involved to make a difference. That means knowing more, so that you can do more, and ultimately so that we as men can hold each other accountable and to a higher respectable standard. It is time for men to start becoming part of the solution to what is ultimately a men’s issue.
When it comes to those who make contact with victims of domestic violence, the list is rather endless. The key difference isn’t whether important people are making contact, but it is whether that contact is one that moves a victim towards help and freedom, or not. If you are a first responder in your community, having the best tools in your pocket to handle those situations is incredibly important. Knowing the importance of safe spaces, separation from the abuser during interviews, knowing the right way to ask about violence in the home (in all its forms), and being aware of all the services in your community for that victim can be the difference between life or death. It can be the difference between a life of terror and torture or a life of freedom and independence and peace. It can be the difference between a strong, confident, and healthy mind, or a mind that is ravaged by the effects of abuse leading to anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. You stand at the front lines of the war whether you realize it or not. The question is, are you properly equipped and trained for that battle?
As a local minister in Decatur, I also feel the strong need for pastors and ministers in our community to further educate themselves. Victims who are tied to a faith community often times have a powerful support network and resources at their fingertips. They also have a deep faith and trust in their faith leaders. Even with all the best intentions in the world, the most loving and compassionate ministers can make fatal errors in their counseling to these victims. One of the most common mistakes in pastoral counseling for intimate partner violence is the viewpoint that this is a marital issue. The most common prescription for these situations is one of couples counseling and marriage advice. Unfortunately, that can also be some of the most dangerous methods attempted. Marriage counseling is for two non-abusive partners who are having a hard time working through disagreements. When trying to apply such practices to abusive situations, you often do more damage than good when the victim begins to disclose in a perceived safe space while the perpetrator often times keeps quiet or manipulates the minister until the victim pays the price for her honesty later on at home.
The light at the end of the tunnel rests with my original point. There is power in knowledge. We all have opportunities on a regular basis, some of us more formally than others, to be the first step towards freedom for someone trapped in a life of abuse and terror. Many of you are already trying to do the best you can with the tools you started with, but you can do even better than you ever imagined. There is a whole host of information available to you. It doesn’t take a college degree or some special academy. Dove, Inc. Domestic Violence Program puts on a 40 hour Domestic Violence Education and Volunteer Training twice a year. This isn’t just training we use for our staff and volunteers, but it is also available to community members and professionals both locally and even regionally. It will equip you with a deep understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, several of its forms, and how to interact with and make a difference for victims in the most beneficial way possible.
If you’d like more information about our semi-annual training, please contact Dove, Inc. at 217.428. 6616 and ask to speak with our Volunteer and Community Relations Director, Barb Blakey. Our next training begins on April 30, 2018.
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