“Bad taste in men”

As a young teen, she watched her best friend date boys who were clearly abusive. “No matter how many times I told her that she deserved better, she always said she loved them and couldn’t leave.” She chalked up her friend’s series of troubled relationships to having “bad taste in men.”   But then the current college student admitted that her own “taste in men” hasn’t been so great. After dating two abusive boyfriends, including one who raped her, she did some soul-searching and looked back at her family history. “My grandmother grew up with an alcoholic father and was later in a financially controlling relationship until they divorced when my mother was four. She then married an abusive drunk who repeatedly physically assaulted her and sometimes her children.” The history didn’t stop there.   “My mother married my father when she was three months pregnant. My father was a very heavy drinker. He gambled behind my mom’s back, disappeared for days at a time, and often became violent. He hit my mother, chased my younger sister and I around the house, and yelled and screamed at us. I hid my sister in my closet and locked the door. I could hear my mother screaming to call 911. She was struggling to speak and I knew she was being strangled. I don’t remember what happened after the police arrived. I went to the closet to console my sister.”   After the second abusive boyfriend, the young woman shed her rose-colored glasses. “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” Now she...

Chilling developments in teenage dating violence

The adolescent years have always been about development. Our bodies begin the shift to their adult form, our brains are flooded by hormones and other chemicals that affect the way we see the world, educators ratchet up the complexity and depth of what they’re teaching, and parents suddenly create higher and higher expectations.   But in the minds of most adolescents, all that takes a back seat to what’s really important: love. Yes, teens are taking on new responsibilities and demonstrating clear signs that they’re becoming adults. Still, in the adolescent world, so much centers around attraction to others. From serious crushes, to endless “do you think he/she likes me?” conversations, to group social functions and actual dates, to even early discussions about marriage, love and relationships become a central focus.   That’s nothing new. Our parents went through it, as did our grandparents, and their parents. But something that is new is having an astonishing effect on young people, and it’s a legitimate cause for concern: abusive behavior facilitated by the use of technology has become widespread. Even more chilling, teens are not recognizing it as abuse, rather as something that’s normal or to be expected.   Technology has been central to young people’s lives from an early age. That constant connection is particularly pronounced when it comes to early relationships. The use of technology is playing a key role in the formation of adolescent sexual identities and what happens in their intimate relationships. No longer do teens spend hours on the family’s extension phone, trying to find privacy while talking to a significant other. Instead, they’re up...

We Never Box Up The Hope

Life certainly has its ups and downs, and that’s most apparent as December gives way to January. December is a magical month, with festive decorations, those special foods we crave all year long, endless Christmas music everywhere we go, time with friends and family — even those December snowfalls are things of beauty. Then we flip the calendar, and we’re taking things down and packing them up, regretting those extra calories as we strain to slide the boxes into the attic. What was a White Christmas Wonderland is now an ugly gray driveway. And if we hear “Santa Baby” one more time, we fear we’ll do something that will have us end up with a sack of coal next December. January brings a different vibe to Sheltering Wings, too. The holidays are fun and festive around here. Our families bake cookies together as a way to thank first responders and the others who have helped them. Santa pays plenty of attention to “our” kids, making multiple visits to thank them for being so good to their moms and each other. We meet the Colts, we meet the Pacers, and we get to visit exciting places. And on Christmas morning, the little ones scream as they see all the presents piled outside their doors. But when the tinsel and colored lights come down, they reveal the tensions that have been hiding all along. Our families are safe from domestic violence under our roof, but their lives have been changed in unimaginable ways. What was familiar is now gone, and the future is unclear. Their eyes again reveal sadness and worry....
Working with schools to create stability for children

Working with schools to create stability for children

It’s not easy, but I want you to imagine life as a child in a home where there is domestic abuse. The environment is hopefully nothing like what you’ve experienced, but put yourself in that child’s place. One night, Mom wakes you up, puts your coat on, and rushes you out the door to an unfamiliar car. You drive through the dark streets and you come to a place that looks like an office. It’s called Sheltering Wings, but you don’t know what that means. You just know that Mom is crying and looks scared. You’re scared, too, but you try not to cry. When a child arrives at a domestic violence shelter like Sheltering Wings, everything they know about life has just been disrupted, often in dramatic ways. They may not understand their exposure to an abusive relationship. They’re no longer home and their family is no longer intact. They’re safer than they’ve been in a long time, but they don’t realize it. All they know is that they’re in a strange place without familiar furniture and toys. From the moment that young boy or girl walks through our door, one of our goals is doing everything we can to normalize their life and provide children’s services and children’s programs to make a real difference for them. A key to making that happen is the close partnership we have with local schools. Think about it: the two most familiar and important places in a child’s life are their home and their school. Since they no longer have home, their school becomes that much more important. Thanks to a...
Freedom from Domestic Violence Begins with Changing the Abuser

Freedom from Domestic Violence Begins with Changing the Abuser

When you think about ways to address domestic violence in your community, your immediate thoughts probably focus on Sheltering Wings and the other organizations that serve victims of domestic abuse. The safety, support, and resources we provide are indeed critical in helping victims move on to freedom from fear and abuse.   But if we want to truly free our community from the scourge of domestic abuse, we can’t do it only by tending to the victims. We need to stop it at its source, and that’s the people who are abusers. (Although there are abusers in both genders, in this post, we’re going to focus on men to keep the language from getting in the way of the message we want to convey.)   To eliminate domestic violence, we have to help men who are abusers recognize and admit to behavior that’s unacceptable. Then, we have to guide them to take the intentional steps involved in making different choices.   There is never an excuse or valid justification for domestic abuse. Never. We do know that there are factors that increase the chances that a man may be an abuser, and the most significant is growing up in a home where abuse is present. We all learn a lot from our parents — everything from faith, to how we handle money, to our tastes in food. And, by watching the interactions between our parents (or a parent and their intimate partner), we develop our own expectations for behavior in relationships. If Dad bellows at and belittles Mom every day, a young boy is going to believe that’s the...
The victims in your workplace

The victims in your workplace

If you work outside the home, we’d like you to do a little math. Total the number of women in your workplace, or in the building where you work. Have a number? Now divide that number by four. Hold on to that answer. Statistics prove time and again that about one woman in every four is, has been, or will be the victim of abuse. That answer you just computed represents the number of women around your job who likely fall into that category. Chilling, isn’t it? We know that some of those women are living with domestic abuse right now. They’re good at hiding it. We’ve talked to women who became experts at covering bruises with makeup. We’ve worked with women whose partners demand so much of their attention that it makes it difficult for them to work. We’ve counseled victims whose partners would show up at work with a smile for everyone so nobody would believe what went on at home. If you think that domestic violence doesn’t have an effect on you and your job, think again. Ask whoever is in charge of security for your employer, and they’ll tell you that domestic violence is one of the issues that causes them concern– worried that an angry spouse might show up with a weapon. What would you do in that situation? Ask your human resources manager how many workdays are lost because abused women can’t make it into work, or the effect that being abused has on productivity. How well could you concentrate on work if you were terrified about going home or knew that each...