We All Have The Opportunity To Save A Life

We All Have The Opportunity To Save A Life

Dear friends, “You saved my life.” That’s something an employer doesn’t hear every day, but it’s exactly what an employee said to Dave, a local business owner. He had invited us to come in during lunch breaks and talk about domestic abuse. The employees listened with interest, but one was stunned at what she heard. She sensed that something was wrong with her relationship, but she wondered if it was only her imagination. Perhaps she was overreacting, or just being too sensitive. But as she listened over lunch that day, she realized that she was a victim of abuse … and she needed help. After lunch, she summoned up her courage, and walked into the HR manager’s office. She explained that she was being abused and wanted help. Dave and the manager didn’t hesitate for a moment. They immediately took steps to ensure that she was safe while at work, and connected her with resources about developing a safety plan and escaping from the abuse. Their actions and support empowered her to make a change that ultimately saved her life. Domestic violence doesn’t happen somewhere else, to some other people.  It’s all around us, affecting your neighbors, your colleagues, your friends, and even your family members. We know that one in four families is affected by abuse, even in the nicest neighborhoods.  It has a significant impact on the workplace, too, costing American companies $727.8 million annually in lost productivity and 7.9 million paid workdays. Plus, three-quarters of victims report that their abuser has harassed them while at work. When Dave shared his employee’s comment, I was gripped by...
The Innocent Victims of Domestic Violence

The Innocent Victims of Domestic Violence

Dear friends, Please take a moment to form a mental image of your family during your childhood. I can’t see that image, but I’m sure it’s what you consider a “normal” family on a typical day, or gathered together for a holiday or special celebration. As a child, you assumed that everyone’s home was much the same way. So what do you say to a seven-year-old who makes the same kind of assumption — only his description involves yelling and screaming? How would you react to a five-year-old whose image of a “normal” home life involves hiding beneath the covers and hearing Mom cry out as Dad chokes her? Could you respond to a thirteen-year-old who thinks women are stupid and useless because that’s all she ever heard her mother’s boyfriend say? One of the toughest parts of our job is working with the children who are the innocent victims of domestic violence. It isn’t just a matter of knowing what they’ve witnessed — it’s knowing that, in their eyes, families normally behave abusively. They have no idea that “normal” should mean a home where love is expressed through trust, respect, encouragement, and support. Normal should be going to the pool without looking over your shoulder to see if someone is following you. Normal is being able to be picked up by the bus at your own house to go to your own school. Normal doesn’t involve cowering in fear. Through our Children’s Program, we protect kids and help them avoid becoming victims (or abusers) by educating them about healthy relationships. We work with therapists and counselors to help them...
The Gift Of Independence

The Gift Of Independence

Dear friends, When you need groceries, a few dollars from the ATM, or just want to satisfy that craving for a chocolate-chip bagel and a cappuccino, you probably don’t think twice. You hop into your car, drive to your destination (grumbling a bit about this month’s swarm of construction projects), get what you need, and head home. What if you didn’t have a car, or even a driver’s license? Suppose your spouse refused to let you drive (or even walk) anywhere. Imagine being stuck in your house or apartment, unable to visit friends, see your family, go shopping, or just feel the breeze through the car windows. It may be hard for you to imagine, but it’s a daily reality for many of the women Sheltering Wings serves. You see, domestic violence is all about control, and one of the most powerful (and cruel) forms of control is stealing someone’s freedom of movement. Just the other day I talked with a woman who desperately needs a job … and a car to get there. She can’t walk or use public transportation, because she’s afraid her abuser will find her. Without a car, she can’t get a job, and without a job, she can’t afford a car (we did help her get the driver’s license he prohibited, so that’s a step in the right direction). It isn’t enough to help victims escape their abusive situations. If we are truly going to serve victims, we must help them build the tools they need to live independently.  That’s where our Life Skills program comes in, with the steps to help each woman...
Basic Skills Means Self-sufficiency For Our Women

Basic Skills Means Self-sufficiency For Our Women

Dear friends, I was passing through the kitchen the other day and saw a half-dozen women and children sitting around a table. They were listening to our volunteer nutritionist, as she offered friendly advice about healthy food choices. My first thought was that I needed to sit in on that discussion! But then I smiled, as I realized just how important the nutritionist’s information was to those families, and how fortunate we are that she takes time every week to volunteer her services to Sheltering Wings. By using her expertise and passion to help our ladies understand how simple choices like exchanging one glass of water for a can of pop each day can make a significant difference. They’ll remember her suggestions for making affordable and healthier choices when they’re ready to leave the shelter. A significant part of our work at Sheltering Wings involves helping the women and children we serve develop the skills they need to live safe and independent lives. Our Life Skills program encompasses so many aspects of life that most of us just take for granted … from basic nutrition, to parenting tips, to learning how to write a resume and interview for a job, and many others. Having those basic skills and the ability to be self-sufficient means that the women and their children can be more successful when they’re ready to move on … so they can break the vicious cycle of domestic violence. We can’t do it all, so we draw upon volunteers like our nutritionist who are generous with their time and knowledge. Each of our many Life Skills volunteers recognizes...
Every Mom Has a Different Story…

Every Mom Has a Different Story…

Dear friends, She’s a project manager, short-order cook, pediatrician, teacher, chauffeur, therapist, comedian, housekeeper, role model, decorator, nose-wiper, family historian, repair expert, cheerleader, cookie baker, storyteller, financier, best friend, and so much more — but you know her simply as Mom. Whether you’re a mom or you remember everything your Mom endured as you made that difficult journey from infancy to adulthood, you know that mothers are amazing. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to call them superheroes, given everything they’re expected to do for their families and children. But some moms just don’t feel like superheroes. The mothers who come through our doors are desperate to survive and to protect their children. Most arrive with no self-confidence, few resources, overwhelming fear … and just enough hope to believe in something better for their kids. Our staff responds with love, skills, and resources to strengthen that hope. For some, it’s strategies for successful parenting. For others, it’s better communication with their children. Still others receive skills to help them find work. Each mom has a different story, and when they share those stories with one another, they laugh, cry, learn, and understand that they’re not the only ones who struggle while trying to fly like superheroes. This month, we’re starting a new support group for moms called Single and Parenting to prepare them for the unique challenges they’ll face as single parents and provide the tools they need to raise strong, independent, emotionally healthy kids. The curriculum materials were purchased by generous donors and the class is being presented by caring volunteers. As you celebrate Mother’s Day, please say a prayer...
No Congregation or Community is Immune to Domestic Violence

No Congregation or Community is Immune to Domestic Violence

Dear friends, What can a pastor do when a church member tells him that their spouse has been abusing them? Pastors are dedicated, caring people, but few report receiving any or adequate training in domestic violence during their journey through the seminary. In fact, 52 percent of senior pastors in a national survey said they lacked sufficient training to help domestic and sexual abuse victims. Sheltering Wings hosted a Church Leadership Training workshop for pastors and lay leaders to expand their knowledge of domestic violence intervention in March. We know that churches are often the “first responders” for troubled families. Our workshop educated these faith leaders about domestic abuse, including the warning signs, how to respond when they learn of abuse, the resources available to them and their church members, and how churches can provide loving refuge to victims. It’s sad, but no congregation or community is immune to domestic violence. When you gather with your faith family on Sunday morning, there are those among you who secretly live in fear and shame. But they are not without hope, because the more you know about domestic abuse, the more you can do to increase awareness and help the victims around you. The participants in our workshop shared stories of their own encounters with abuse victims, and learned how they could intervene more effectively. They developed a stronger understanding of the dynamics of troubled relationships, so they could see that couples counseling — the “traditional” response — is rarely a safe solution for abuse victims. And they received information to share with their congregations. One participant put it best when he...