As we close the month of October, we want to recognize the survivors and the countless others affected by domestic violence. At Children’s Home & Aid, we work with families every day who are looking for a path up and out of these situations that, unfortunately, are all too common for families from every walk of life. You may not even realize it, but someone you know may be suffering in silence.
Since 1987, Domestic Violence Awareness Month has served as a way to connect those affected by or exposed to violence with those who are working to eradicate this global health crisis. We are proud to have dedicated staff across the state who provide care, counseling and resources to families that are living through this untenable and often dangerous circumstance.
This year’s theme, #WeAreResilient, speaks to the strength of victims who do their best to work through their deepest fears: trauma to themselves and their children, loss of economic stability, and, most troubling, more or worse violence.
The team at Children’s Home & Aid supports families in crisis and we do all we can to protect families, including the rollout of the blue “Escape Button” at the bottom of our pages to allow victims seeking help to quickly exit from our pages. And when victims arrive at the doors of our Crisis Nursery in Bloomington, MotherHouse Crisis Nursery in Rockford or the Family Visitation Center, also in Bloomington, they know that they are in a safe haven—a place where someone overwhelmed by violence can recuperate and think through their next steps. Crisis nurseries provide loving care to young children while their family is in crisis, while family enhancement specialists work with the parent or caregiver who needs help.
The Family Visitation Center (FVC), one of the only facilities of its kind in Illinois, allows parents who are separated due to violence or have an Order of Protection to have safe, supervised visits in a child-friendly facility.
Our longtime friend and supporter, Amy Leichtenberg, regularly shares how the FVC allowed her to have quality time with her children. A judge determined that supervised visits with the father were no longer needed and tragically, they lost their lives at the hands of their father, who then took his own life.
But Amy, like so many survivors, is resilient, speaking about the value of the FVC and the other trauma-informed resources and services that help families heal before things end in tragedy. We are extremely grateful to supporters who help keep these doors open, which, for some, is the only beacon of light in a dark storm.
Advance the conversation about Domestic Violence
This year, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) used its platform to note how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a unique toll on victims. As such, they ask that we begin treating domestic violence as a health crisis as we did for COVID, having new conversations about how to eliminate domestic violence: What are the root causes to this problem? How can we work better together to work toward a “vaccine,” i.e. prevention? How can we acknowledge or progress while recognizing that solutions so far have only served as bandages while the infection rages underneath?
These are powerful questions and there is no one right answer. But communities across Illinois and around the world, deserve a collaborative response and policy efforts that offer a closer examination to barriers and systems that perpetuate the problem. According to the NCADV, 45.1% of Black women and 40.1% of Black men have experienced intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. Even worse, in 2017, for female victim/male offender homicides, Black females had the highest rate at 2.55 per 100,000.
Again, we know that domestic violence is a result of many –isms, but similar to other major societal issues, people and families of color are often more acutely impacted due to racist policies, social structures and less access to health and crisis resources.
We stand in solidarity with these and all families this month and every month. The road to recovery and safety is frightening and lonely, but we will continue to be there to provide the tools needed to prevent violence, but serve as a safe space when it does happen.
What You Can Do
First, if you or anyone you know anyone is struggling with domestic violence or you see the signs, do not be hard on yourself or judgmental of others. This is a very difficult and complex problem that requires the help of professionals. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 confidential help at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).
Support agencies like ours that provide respite, counseling and emergency child care for DV emergency situations. Our Butterfly Project allows us to reach families that are most susceptible to violence. The goal is to support families so they will not experience the trauma associated with domestic violence. The staff of this program in our Central region provide a continuum of care and prevention resources for those who have, in fact, experienced domestic, community or family violence.
Finally, join us during our Blue Bow Campaign. Each April, Children’s Home & Aid hosts several events to bring awareness to violence and abuse towards children. You can join ours or host one of your own. Blue Bows are tied around trees and poles around the community to signify the hidden bruises of abused children and is recognized as the national symbol of child abuse prevention. In April 1994, Children’s Home & Aid held its first Blue Bow Campaign for Child Abuse Prevention.
There is much to do ahead to address this ongoing crisis, but #WeAreResilient and we are here to walk alongside families to repair relationships and build skills to improve their lives for the future.