May 17, 2006
I have been working at Peace House, the local domestic violence shelter, for two years. In the grand scheme of things, two years is not a long time. However, I have learned so much it cannot be calculated.
Unfortunately, what I have learned about is the shadow nature of mankind. I have seen the effects of brutality, coercion, rape, lying and manipulation. Women enter Peace House in a state of confusion, shock and numbness. They feel guilty, ashamed and traumatized. Our job is to empower women to live a life of dignity, self-respect and self-esteem.
"No one deserves to be abused" has been our mantra, but it has also evolved to "You are worthy of a wonderful life."
When I first started working at Peace House, I would often take my work home, worrying excessively about the women in the shelter. In my
perception, I saw how clearly the women’s lives could be fixed. And I felt it was my duty to "fix" the problems. This was a disaster. I soon learned that "fixing" someone else’s problem simply was not effective. Along the way, I learned how to "detach." I sincerely like and want to help my clients. However, I am clear that it is no longer my job to fix their problems. That’s their job! My job is to educate, listen, provide available resources and show the way to a better future. But whether a woman is ready to leave abuse is another story. I can’t make it happen. I do feel that Peace House does provide an optimum environment in which our clients feel safe and dare to step into their own empowerment.
However, I have become so used to the field of domestic violence, that I forget how terrifying it is to people who do not work in the field. Sometimes, part of my job is to talk to people about domestic violence. For instance, I might talk to volunteers or talk to someone on the hotline. As I tell people about some of the common themes of domestic violence, beatings in front of the children, vicious verbal abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, control of finances, I usually can sense the horror wash over them. They go cold and quiet. It simply does not register that the people who should be the most loving and the most supportive are the very people who are the most dangerous and do the most damage.
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That said, I love my job, because I see the hope and I see success stories. There is no greater feeling in the world than to witness a woman who once felt helpless and depressed flower into a woman who is strong and confident. Basically, I am a selfish person. I like to help people because it makes me feel good. And if you would like to join me in this endeavor, I invite you to a free training on domestic violence this coming Wednesday, May 17, at Hotel Park City at 7a.m. I know, it’s early, but we will have coffee and breakfast! The training is designed for health care professionals, but the public is welcome and could learn a lot. I hope you can join me!