Page 9 - DVCC Annual Report 2010-2011

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Keep everything as it is-people
really need you. They need this
level of help.
DVCC Support Groups
then moved to an apartment in Bridgeport
for four years. During that time she worked
as an art teacher at a public school in New
Haven and then took an office job helping
people with disability benefits.
Divorcing her husband was a time con-
suming, unpleasant task that took over two
years because he stonewalled everymove she
and her lawyer made to reach an amicable
agreement. Even now, she has to return to
court to fight for the child support her ex-
husband is supposed to pay. Despite those
obstacles, Anna said she is happy with the
way things turned out and proud of how
she and her children have handled some
difficult times.
Today Anna, Cassie andMichael live in a
charming apartment situated on a large farm
in a central Connecticut town. The school
system is excellent, and Anna is back in a
teaching capacity at a day care facility, a job
she says is perfect for her.
She worried for a long time about how
her volatile relationship with her husband
and then somewhat nomadic and uncertain
life would affect Cassie, but now has few
concerns. Her daughter is in high honors
classes and is very involved in the drama
program at her high school, and both she
and Michael have lots of friends.
“Cassie talks about the time that we
spent in the shelter and transitional hous-
ing. She thinks it made her stronger, more
of an understanding person,” Anna said.
“Because she didn’t have much of anything
for a long time, she’s very appreciative and
has no patience with people who complain
about trivial things.”
Because she had no family or financial
resources to fall back on, Anna had to rely
solely on herself to get through the last few
years.
“The fact that I am well educated
helped,” she said. “Plus, I learned to ask for
help. I learned that most programs offer
financial assistance, and I am now able to
ask for that assistance when it is important.”
She cited an example of a writers’ work-
shop that Cassie was eager to participate in
over the summer. Thanks to her inquiries,
she was able to get scholarship assistance to
cover the $600 fee.
Supporting her family with a job that
she loves and seeing her children happy,
outgoing and doing well in school is a major
milestone for Anna.
“It’s taken a long time – eight years,”
she said. “But I feel like I’ve finally made it.”
*The names of Anna’s children have been
changed for privacy.
The questions and exchange of ideas
between the fourwomenflowed steadily.One
smiled andnoddedknowingly, another gently
offered a piece of advice. They could have
been part of a sewing group or book club,
except that the conversation focused solelyon
how eachwas coping with an abusive partner
and with the life-altering fallout from living
with and then leaving that partner.
Once a week the women come together
in theDVCCStamfordofficewithCounselor
AdvocateKaren Ifert to talk and support one
another. The group varies in size depending
on theweekandeachwoman’s schedule.Even
though it was the week before Christmas and
no showswerenot a surprise, thewomenwho
managed to get there clearly appreciated the
experience. Therewas full consensus that the
support group, maybe more than anything
else, helps to dispel the isolation that so
often is a part of being a victim of intimate
partner violence.
“It’s comfortable tobewithotherwomen
who have similar situations and it’s comfort-
ing to know I am not alone,” said Naomi*,
a young woman who had left her abusive
husband and who later described problems
she had had retrieving her belongings from
their shared home. Another group member
advised her to ask the police for a liaisonwho
would work with her and accompany her to
the home to collect her things.
Although the women differed in back-
ground and ranged in age from their mid-
twenties to early sixties, and the advice flowed
more from older to younger than vice versa,
there was an easy rapport and trust between
the members.
Marcia*, who has been slowly recover-
ing from her husband’s horrific physical and
emotional abuse and has filed for divorce and
custody of their child, vented that afternoon
about her recent court experience, describing
it as “brutal”.
“There is nothing that prepares you for
actually being there, facing your abuser and
being challenged by the opposing side,” she
said. “My lawyers have been great in prepar-
ing me, but it’s not the same when you are
there. There should be a court support group
where women who have been through this
also counsel you about what to expect.”
The conversation focused momentarily
on ways in which victims of domestic abuse
are often re-victimized by a court system that
can be very cut and dried and impersonal,
then moved on to other matters.
DVCCcounselorsoffer approximately15
support groups at any given time, bothwithin
the agency and in partnership venues. Besides
the group in the Stamford office, Ifert leads
groups at each of the DVCC SafeHouses, at
St. Luke’s Lifeworks’ Families in Recovery
Program, at a shelter for homeless women, at
a half way house for women, and she recently
started a group for Haitian women. Other
counselors offer a self-esteem workshop in
English and several support groups for Span-
ish speaking clients. In conjunction with one
of the Spanish groups, DVCC offers weekly
classes inESL and in basic computer training.
Counselors always see DVCC clients in-
dividually before suggesting they join a group.
Some join readily and others never join at all,
Ifert said, although she thinks it is ultimately
verybeneficial tohavepeer support.Members
of her group that day readily agreed.
“I love one-on-one,”Naomi said. “I love
Karen very much. But I also love group. We
help each other by talking about our experi-
ences and about ways to help.”
“These are people who care about you,
even though it’s not their job to do that,”
addedSandra*, anothermember of the group.
“I used to think groups weren’t as helpful as
individual counseling, but I don’t feel that
way now.”
*Names have been changed for privacy
Articles in DVCC Voices are written by Katharine Lake, Media Advocate.