Written by Tara Cryderman, Psy.D, Assistant Director of Integrated Health Services and
Susan Barron, Ph.D., Director of Integrated Health Services
Since first proclaimed in 1987, October has been Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness Month. During the month of October, we seek to increase awareness of DV as a societal problem that affects women, men, and children, extending through individual families and often over generations. DV is a devastating problem occurring in all demographics – regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, age, etc. Those who perpetrate domestic violence work to silence the voices of their victims, and those who minimize or ignore the existence of DV perpetuate it. The impact extends to our communities—victims who find momentary refuge at their job or church; children who find safety in their school environment. Ultimately, this silent and hidden suffering diminishes potential and growth in families and weakens the fabric of our communities at large.
Much of the work that we do at Saint John’s centers on assisting survivors to reclaim their powerful voices for their own benefit and health, as well as to benefit their children’s healthy development. It is usually an incremental process wherein what has been systematically broken-down is rebuilt bit by bit.
I have worked with DV survivors and their children since 2004 in various settings, and trying to encapsulate my experiences seemed overwhelming. As I worked with my clients during this month, I found myself being more cognizant of my words, protecting confidentiality, and uplifting clients in ways that they feel empowered to rely on their own strengths. I also found myself listening more to create understanding and clarification. Each client has a different story, even though there are many similarities. Lastly, I found myself awestruck. Awestruck just by being a witness to clients who share stories of survival, and taking all the control back that was once lost.
Those of us who have experienced DV, or who have worked with survivors understand that the amount of anxiety, stress, and obligations a survivor can face while putting their life back together can sometimes feel insurmountable.
At Saint John’s Program for Real Change, female victims of DV receive a variety of much needed services on one site. This is unique, because often crucial services are spread throughout a community. Traveling from site to site can be dangerous and frightening for survivors who are actively fleeing an abuser. Having many services under one roof also promotes active coordination of services and collaboration between the service providers. Those of us who have experienced DV, or who have worked with survivors understand that the amount of anxiety, stress, and obligations a survivor can face while putting their life back together can sometimes feel insurmountable. Saint John’s provides the basic staples of care, shelter and meals where a woman can have a place to be with her children while she recovers, strengthens, and identifies her steps to regaining her independence and self-determination. These incremental steps are accomplished though classes, groups, case management, therapy alcohol and other drug (AOD) services, vocational training as well as job readiness and acquisition support available to guide and assist women in developing the confidence as they execute their plans. Ultimately, women find community with others who have a common goal of growth and a shared belief that all people can heal and make healthy choices when given a safe environment and the access to adequate tools and coping skills.
During the month of October and always, we have the opportunity to commit to shine a light on DV, illuminating that which is hidden and identifying what supports and services are necessary to meet the needs of all those who are victimized by it. We at Saint John’s are able to provide this caring environment and these comprehensive services largely due to the generosity of our many donors. We’d like to give a special thanks to Blue Shield of California Foundation and Allstate with the Purple Purse Campaign. Thanks for joining the on the ground direct service movement to work with survivors and their families toward ending violence.