As crisis workers, DVCC staff members are used to handling all kinds of unusual circumstances and overwhelming problems faced by our clients. By definition, intimate partner violence impacts its victims physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially, and the ensuing complications are limitless. However, little in their previous experience prepared DVCC staff for Nora*, a woman in her mid 30's who came to the Norwalk SafeHouse after her husband of seven years had shoved a curtain rod into her right eye. Even though Nora had been treated at the hospital, SafeHouse counselors soon became concerned that her eye was getting worse and subsequently sent her to a specialist at an outpatient eye care clinic. Doctors there diagnosed a severe infection which, if it went to her brain, would be fatal. The next day doctors removed her eye and sent her back to the SafeHouse, where they said it would be fine for her to recover.
"Here we had a woman who had just had her eye removed. Not only was she psychologically traumatized, she was in extreme pain, very disoriented, and clearly needed round-the-clock care," said SafeHouse counselor Olga Beaudoin. "So we all pitched in, not only staff, but the other SafeHouse residents as well."
As luck would have it, two of the residents were Certified Nursing Assistants, who immediately volunteered to help. Quickly understanding that less movement was optimal, they fixed up a comfortable cot for Nora in a first floor office so that she wouldn't have to go upstairs. Then for 48 hours straight, staff and residents looked after her, feeding her sips of ginger ale and soft food, escorting her to the bathroom and making sure she took her pain medication. As the pain lessened and she was better able to care for herself, the ad hoc nursing crew still continued to keep a close watch on Nora.
The women residing at the SafeHouse that week never envisioned they would be giving post-op care to a fellow resident, and they certainly didn't have to participate. But, despite the trauma, upheaval and uncertainty in their own lives, that's what they did. As for DVCC, whether confronted by a violent act of nature, such as Hurricane Sandy, or a violent act by an intimate partner, such as with Nora and so many others, we know to expect the unexpected.
*Client's name has been changed for safety.