Funny, it only costs me the breath I lose when I say, “Why didn’t she just leave?”
Sadly, I’ve known many women, and men, who’ve been in both physically and mentally abusive relationships and never left. I remember one friend, Becky*, who calmly told me, after being beaten for nearly an hour the night before, “Morgan, where would I even go? Or do? Everything is tied up in him. I don’t have any money. I can’t just get a higher paying job tomorrow.”
I wasn’t able to leverage ‘he’s a danger to your son’ because he was away at college, but I did mention to her, “What about when he finds out? He’s gonna race back here and beat your boyfriend with the same bat that got him that baseball scholarship. And when he gets arrested, which he will, then HE will lose everything.”
She just shrugged her shoulders, and plainly said, “I’m not going to tell him.”
It took two weeks from the bruises on her face to heal.
She was right though. I have the luxury of never having to formulate an escape plan from my spouse. It costs me nothing to sit back and judge victims who stay for fear of what happens next.
Domestic violence is horrific. Yet, even though it is indoctrinated in American culture to ‘never hit a girl,’ it feels like we offer far more support, compassion, and physical assistance to abandoned animals, then to women (and often, men) and children in dangerous situations.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Hotline receives between 1,600 and 2,000 contacts a day from people across the United States seeking support or resources relating to domestic violence.
Sound high? Consider these recent statistics:
- On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
- Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.
- Nearly 15% of women (14.8%) and 4% of men have been injured as a result of intimate partner violence (IPV) that included rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).
- Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
- A child witnessed violence in 22% (nearly 1 in 4) of intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts.
- 30 to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.
The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect suggests that domestic violence may be the single major precursor to child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country.
According to DomesticShelters.org, Texas, with its population of over 26 million, has only 149 shelters.
As of 2017, Texas boasts 1,216 incorporated cities and 254 counties. So…yeah. I’m gonna let you use that algebra our 9th grade teachers promised we’d use when we grew up to solve how un-balanced resources for this epidemic are.
From Fear to Safety
Fortunately for the residents of Frisco, we have one here; It’s called The Family Place and it’s saving lives every day.
We caught up with hero and advocate Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place, to learn more about this critical organization.
My original role at The Family Place was as a volunteer in 1989. I was part of a group organizing a new young professionals organization, Helping Hands, and became its president in 1990. I visited the shelter, which was in Oak Cliff at the time, and just couldn’t believe women had to abandon their homes, bringing their clothes with them in black trash bags, and live in a place with bars on the windows all because they were afraid of someone who was supposed to love them. In 1991, I joined the staff as Director of Community Education and have been here ever since!
During her tenure, TFP has gone from being an emergency shelter with 40 beds and one counseling office to being the largest family violence service provider in North Texas serving Dallas and Collin Counties with three shelters. Including 178 beds, 25 transitional housing apartments, and four counseling offices. Flink tells us,
It all started in 1976 with Women’s Help, a grassroots group of activists who had been working to get funding for services for battered women. They appeared at a Dallas City Council meeting to request funds for a shelter. The story goes, that a city council member said she would rather give money to a shelter for animals. The Wednesday afternoon meetings were broadcast on the radio. Joan Weston, a Ph.D. professor of Sociology at Brookhaven College, was driving down the highway listening. When she heard this, she became so upset that she had to pull over to the side of the road. She thought someone had to do something. She was a friend of Gerry and Bob Beer, and she knew that Bob owned a commercial real estate business and might be able to help find a shelter.
She called Gerry, and Gerry began to assess the need, which included a call to her friend Louise Raggio, the trailblazing Dallas attorney who fought long and hard for women. Louise told Gerry to meet her at a certain address, but when Gerry got there, it was a cemetery. Louise explained that she had many clients buried there who had been killed by their husbands.
Gerry went to work. She started the Domestic Violence Intervention Alliance (DVIA) and began the search for funding to open a shelter. Women’s rights activist and journalist Vivian Castleberry, who was an advisor and had written an article about DVIA, thought the fledgling organization needed a friendlier name. She suggested The Home Place or The Family Place, and the change was made when we opened our first shelter in 1978 in a house on McKinney Avenue where La Tour Condominiums now stand. The National Council of Jewish Women, the Junior League of Dallas, Bette Clair McMurray—the inventor of Liquid Paper, Midway Hills Christian Church and Lovers Lane United Methodist Church were all early supporters.
The Family Place has a simple philosophy: that everyone should feel safe in their own home, regardless of gender.
Noticing an increasing need for services for men in the community, in 2017, they opened the first shelter for men and children in the state. Research shows that it is significantly more difficult for male victims to leave their abusers due to social expectations, fear of leaving children with their abusers, or feeling the legal system has minimized their abuse claims.
TFP provides these men with the respect and resources they deserve to live empowered, positive lives. Along with safe shelter, counseling and emergency relief services, clients have access to case management, childcare, healthcare, and legal aid.
Humans aren’t the only victims, unfortunately.
One of their newest projects is the kennel at Ann Moody Place. Flink explains,
It’s called Barkingham Palace. And it’s the only domestic violence shelter kennel in the Dallas area. We served our first dog in October 2017 and our first cat in January 2018. Barkingham Palace has five dog kennels and five cat towers, a Cuddle Room, a Dog Run, ADA compliant dog washing tub, storage and workstation for the on-site kennel technician, who cares for the animals in the event the client is unable to fully care for their pet due to stress. Through a partnership with Dallas SPCA, the animals in our care are seen by a vet as soon as an appointment is available and receive free shots, immunizations, wellness exams, and spay and neutering. This is a great service for our clients, 95% of which live in poverty.
The kennel is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Clients living in the shelter can visit their pets when it’s open, and we think there’s a real benefit for the family having their pet nearby and safe. Their concern is valid, because up to 85% of women entering domestic violence shelters report that their partners had threatened, injured, or killed their pets.
In the fall of 2016, a new counseling office in historic downtown McKinney, opened it’s doors and has since seen an increase in clients from Collin County.
The City of McKinney provides funding to supply direct client assistance, including childcare, rental assistance, and emergency hotel housing when transporting victims to one of the three emergency shelters is too difficult.
Want to help right now?
You can donate, or shop, at their Resale Boutique at 207 North Church Street in McKinney. The Resale Boutique raises funds for programs but also serves a vital role for clients who often give up everything to flee for safety. Clients can shop with vouchers to purchase what they need so they can start new lives free from violence.
Things are disposable, but life is priceless. If you, or someone you know, needs help, connect with The Family Place. Call the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline 214-941-1991, or visit www.familyplace.org (the website DOES an ‘Escape Website’ tab, in the event you feel you’re being monitored or stalked.)