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  • Jack H. Bender

Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence

This is the first of a two-part series about Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence.

Over 10 million Americans experience domestic violence annually. The physical, mental and emotional impacts are catastrophic, but there is also an economic piece to domestic violence. Victims lose a total of 8,000,000 days of paid work each year. When a victim flees from the perpetrator, entering poverty and homelessness may be another consequence of violence. Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence, formerly Center for Women in Transition, has been on my mind for quite some time. I called Resilience to learn more.

In an earlier blog post about filling shipping containers with medical supplies for Vietnam, I underscored the power of conversation— “It started when a couple of people began talking.” Again, such is the case here. In 1977 a group in Grand Haven established a crisis hotline for victims of domestic violence. An emergency shelter followed. The number of services grew and a center in Holland was established. Resilience serves victims of domestic and sexual violence throughout Ottawa and Allegan Counties.

I met with Danielle Evans, MS, Communications & Development Director of Resilience. The new name, Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence, encompasses all of the same supportive services as before, while emphasizing the fact that they serve all survivors of violence, not solely women. Resilience’s long-term goal of violence prevention is reflected in programming offered to schools, businesses and faith communities. Two prevention programs, centered around athletics, already have wide name recognition—Girls on the Run and Coaching Boys into Men.

Though violence does not discriminate and anyone can be a victim, women have a statistically higher chance of experiencing domestic violence. Resilience seeks out spaces, such as beauty salons, to educate and inform service professionals on how to recognize signs of abuse, and what to do if you suspect someone may be a victim.

The barriers to leaving an abusive relationship are many.

Intentional isolation of the victim by the perpetrator

Having children to care for

Poverty – no money on which to survive once they leave

Threats of violence – “If you leave, I will find you….”

An offender who has experienced jail and doesn’t think jail a deterrent to behavior

No access to transportation

Little education, leading to few job options

Home location in a rural setting with no nearby resources of support

Perpetrator’s threat of suicide – “If you leave, I will kill myself”

Some community organizations are hesitant to provide emergency housing to those that are victims of violence, for fear of their own safety

Danielle shares that on average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good. Exiting the relationship is the most unsafe time for a victim. Abusive relationships are fueled by power and control. As the abuser senses that they’re losing power, they will often act in dangerous ways to regain control over their victim.

Laws and strong enforcement can help reduce domestic violence. Intimate partner physical abuse has declined 67% since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, but such a statistic is a broad measure. Only slightly more than half of intimate physical violence is reported to law enforcement. An average of 20 people experience intimate partner physical violence every minute.

Funding for Resilience comes from many sources, including the United Way and several area Community Foundations. The 1984 Victims of Crime Act became an important source of financial support for survivors, with a portion of court fees from violence cases being set aside to compensate victims for medical, funeral, burial, and mental health costs.

Volunteers serve a critical role in Resilience furthering their mission. One role volunteers can play is providing emotional support and education during the process of a sexual assault exam. Resilience has nurses trained in the science of trauma-informed forensic evidence collection 24 hours a day to provide timely, sensitive, comprehensive exams for adults and teens that have been sexually assaulted. Local hospitals refer these cases directly to Resilience because of the high level of experience, resources and support for victims.

Next week: Part Two of Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence.


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