Wednesday, 03 October 2012 14:31
By Amy Brown
She knows it’s early, but she looks at the alarm clock just to make sure. The bruise near her eye still hurts as she tiptoes to the bathroom. She uses the “burner” cell phone a friend gave her and calls the number on the back of a business card. She knows her friend will pick her up at the corner at exactly 3:30, but she is terrified that her husband will wake up as she tiptoes down the stairs.
The sound of the door makes her jump and she hopes the sleeping pill is still doing its work. Her heart doesn’t slow down until she reaches the corner and enters the car that will take her to safety. She will meet the counselor from Catholic Charities Harbor House at a safe prearranged site and from there she will be safe.
It sounds like a movie but the example above is all too real. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 85 percent of domestic or intimate partner violence victims are women. Harbor House serves 300 women and children every year. They turn away over 50 requests for shelter every month because they are full.
I had the opportunity to speak with Kate McPheeters and Cynthia Colbert from Catholic Charities to learn more about the necessary and life saving service this organization provides our community.
One in four women in U.S. are affected
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the NCADV. In 2011, there were 10 domestic violence homicides in Wichita, up from five the years before. Domestic or intimate partner violence is about control. Often, after a domestic violence incident where outside help is requested, referrals are made to anger management or marital counseling as an attempt to help.
Anger management and marital counseling are likely to enflame the situation and put the victim at risk of greater harm. The perpetrator’s anger is not out of control. The opposite is true. Their anger is used to control the victim. In much the same way, marital counseling can put the victim in more danger and enable the abuser to manipulate the situation further.
Alcoholism, drug use and mental disorders may contribute to the violence but they do not cause it. A bad economy may allow the abuser more access, due to a job loss for example, but it also doesn’t cause the abuse.
Leaving husband can be difficult
There are many reasons a victim doesn’t “just leave.” He denies her access to money and isolates her from family and friends. He destroys her self-esteem and threatens to take their children. He may even threaten to kill her and the children if she leaves him. A woman will try to leave an average of five to seven times before she is able to finally break the cycle by leaving. There is a high correlation of child abuse and domestic violence. A man who abuses his wife may also abuse his child.
Every 26 seconds a woman in the United States is a victim of physical assault, according to the NCADV. Harbor House presents these women and their children with a way out. When a call comes in on the hotline – (316) 263-6000 – safety planning is the first step. If the caller needs shelter, the Harbor House advocate arranges to meet the victim at a pre-arranged safe location. Once in shelter, “the women set their goals and their advocate is their guide,” McPheeters said.
Harbor House also provides trauma therapy services, counseling, legal and disability advocacy, assistance with finding housing, and children’s services tailored to address their trauma.
According to domesticviolencestatistics.org, studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Children are one of the main reasons women finally choose to leave. The woman may fear for the safety of her child, or desire a better life for him. Harbor House strives to ensure a welcoming presence for the children living there, as often children represent 50 percent of the residents. The average stay at the Harbor House is 30 days but the organization will allow survivors to stay up to 45 days in order to find adequate housing.
Signs of domestic violence
For those concerned about a loved one there are several signs of domestic violence. If a loved one is withdrawing from family or friends, always accompanied by her husband, not allowed to come and go as she wishes, never has any money, there is a chance she is a victim. If it is a new relationship, it will typically become serious quickly and he may show signs of being possessive. The victim might receive several check-up calls from him on an evening out or she might be expected to check in with him several times. If you notice a lot of unexplained injuries, or it seems as though she is covering something up and she seems very fearful, she may be a victim. The best thing to do if you suspect a loved one is in danger is to call the 24 hour hotline.
Catholic Charities Harbor House is a United Way program and has two major fundraisers throughout the year. Your support would be appreciated by the inspiring women the Harbor House helps through its shelter and outreach services. The Annual Cruise night takes place on the last Sunday in February and the Bags to Riches fundraiser is in the summer.
List of needs
A list of needs for Harbor House is on the website at http://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/wish-lists/harbor-house and includes items such as clothing, books, hygiene products and baby products. Many of these women leave home with only the clothes on their back and they need help to create a new life. Please be that help and give these women hope.
Brown belongs to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Wichita.
Need shelter from domestic violence?
For information about Harbor House or for shelter, call (316) 263-6000 or (866) 899-5522 (toll free), or email