Candlelight Vigil…

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. A Candlelight Vigil was held in my hometown on October 11, near beautiful Logan Martin Lake, at the serene Chapel in the Pines.  Another Candlelight Vigil was held at Birmingham’s historic Linn Park on October 18. Both Candlelight Vigils not only heightened awareness, but honored those who have lost their lives through Domestic Violence. YWCA of Central Alabama sponsored both of these emotional events. It is difficult to believe that in 2015- 32 victims were killed, 267 were raped and 3500 were assaulted by someone who had said, ‘I love you’, right here in Alabama. Those are just the ones that were reported, many more assaults have surely gone unreported. The toll this type of violence takes on homes, children and communities is enormous. I am very honored to serve on a steering committee which serves women and children right here in my hometown. cadlelight-vigil-for-web

The Warning Signs which can lead to Domestic Violence are important to recognize so that lives may be spared.

  • Verbal and Emotional Abuse– Public and private language intended to demean, humiliate, embarrass and damage the self esteem of the victim. Name calling, shameful nicknames, mind games, coarse references about the image of the victim.  Displays or gestures of disgust which result in a loss of confidence. Abusers are overly sensitive to criticism and may react with verbal attacks An abuser may challenge the mental state of the victim, often with accusations of mental illness.
  •  Intimidation– Actions by the abuser instill Fear. Loud coarse language, controlling with the eyes or hand gestures, abusing household pets or animals, breaking the victim’s possessions, reckless behavior, uncontrollable rage and even open display of weapons  near the victim.  Abusers know how to hurt a victim privately, bruising where it doesn’t show.
  • Isolation– The abuser seeks to control who his victim talks to, screens television and reading materials. An abuser finds ways to restrict his victim’s movements, often insisting  on being with her. Controls where the victim goes, may even restrict the use of vehicles and  any forms of communication such as cell phones or social media. The abuser insists on exclusiveness with the victim, restricting friendships and relationships with family. An abuser controls his victim – always using jealousy to justify any abusive activity.
  • Economic Abuse– The victim is prevented from any form of economic independence such as getting a job, he makes the victim ask for money- closely controls family funds so the victim believes escape is impossible. Among other obvious problems, economic abuse undermines confidence and creates hopelessness. An abuser also may withhold gifts or lavish gifts to justify his actions.
  • Extreme Jealousy– constantly asking where the victim has been, checking cellphones and social media- actively checking for any sign of cheating, being suspicious if the victim has informed others of the abuse.
  • Blaming Others – commonly saying ‘It’s your fault’, ‘You shouldn’t have provoked me’, ‘You made me hit you, do this’ etc.
  • Using Manipulation or Threats– Using position or power to intimidate the victim, controls the victim by repeatedly threatening to leave, telling her that she is an unfit mother or saying that no one will ever believe her. The abuser threatens to commit suicide and worse threatens to kill the victim or the children.

This is just a sampling of the warning signs that can escalate violence in the homes. This is a dark subject- one I wish we would never have to discuss, however the number of lives lost so far in 2016, more than double that of 2015. ‘YWCA is On a Mission to Save Lives’. I am proud to be a small part of this mission. I would encourage you to visit the YWCA Central Alabama website for more information. candlelight-vigil-2016-ywca

I would also direct you to a wonderful blog- by a beautiful young mother and so much more- Amanda@overcomeabuse , who bravely shares her struggle with abuse and is one of my blogging heroes! Amanda keep inspiring us all!

Please, if you recognize any of the warning signs– make sure you know the location and number of a Certified Shelter or Crisis Hotline in your area. Just these two things can help save your life or the lives of others. Keep these numbers handy in case you run across someone you feel may need these services.

I am indebted to Communications Director, YWCA Central Alabama, Scottie Vickery for the wonderful photographs of our local event, for the information gleaned from the YWCA e-newsletter this month, and to so many others who are working tirelessly everyday to make this world a safer place to live and re-build lives.  Remember, a House is not a Home unless everyone in it feels safe. Let us never get weary of doing all we can to help.

Love y’all, Camellia

A Time to Mourn…

candlelight-vigil-2016-scottie-vickeryIt is a Time to Mourn when hearts are broken. In the last few weeks, folks we love have died, Hurricanes have taken the lives of those on our American soil and hundreds have died in Haiti. It is a Time to Mourn. A Candlelight Vigil was held in our county to honor those who lost their lives at the hands of someone who had said ‘I love you’ but whose anger went unchecked in domestic abuse and violence. It is a Time to Mourn. Two notable Alabamians, our friend Lucy Baxley, former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and Mary Jo McMichael, the friend of Fanny Flagg- Mary Jo fried green tomatoes for decades at the Irondale Café.   It is a Time to Mourn as wise King Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes 3:4. It seemed appropriate to show respect and honor for these who have left us- with the beautiful hymn, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’- performed by Andre Rieu’s amazing musicians. Please pay particular attention to how the musicians surround the audience. If you have lost a loved one recently, we honor your loss and mourn with you. We pray that you are surrounded by the loving Presence of God. Love y’all, Camellia

Photograph of Candlelight Vigil by Scottie Vickery, Communication Director of YWCA of Central Alabama – also *please note that yesterday, October 15 was a day for remembrance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss

 

 

The Pocketbook Project…

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Domestic Violence is real- it is happening in your hometown, your community, even your neighborhood. The statistics are alarming. The truth is, you either know someone, are related to someone, or are someone who is the victim of domestic violence. There are women and children who are living in fear and you may not realize it. Look at the vintage drawing above.

  • has no color, ethnic or religious background
  • the face tells you nothing
  • the price is not shown
  • the level of education is not a factor
  • the clothing may hide the bruises
  •  the pocketbook is partially hidden.

Domestic Violence has no economic boundaries, does not favor a race or color, age range, level of education or neighborhood. You may not see the bruises or know the types of abuse-most suffer from one or more, even all of these:

  • some are mental
  • some are financial
  • some are emotional
  • some are physicalimage

The drawing is a Chanel suit, accessories and handbag from 1926 from a vintage history book of fashion. I was drawn to this particular sketch, it speaks to me. I have known victims of domestic violence. They don’t look different, they look the same maybe even better than most. Know a victim long enough and you will sense or feel-

  •  the fear
  • the dread to go home at the end of a workday
  • the isolation
  • the excuses
  • the entrapment

A victim of domestic violence lives in CHAOS- ‘Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome’

As you read this-let me offer a piece of advice – please don’t ask, ‘Why don’t they just leave?’ It’s never that simple, especially if there are children involved. When violence escalates, the abuser blames the victim; or promises the victim ‘it won’t happen again’-shame and fear often drives the victim back to the place of violence. This vicious cycle needs to be interrupted by hope that help is out there waiting.

I am honored to serve on the Steering Committee for The YWCA Purse and Passion Luncheon held in my hometown, which offers shelter, counselling, legal services, relocation and job placements for  victims of domestic violence. I wish there was no need to be on this committee; unfortunately, the needs are great. Most  women who escape do so with just the clothes on their backs, they are in emotional turmoil- often gravely injured, broken and scarred; without doubt these victims are at the lowest moments in their lives.

Hopefully you are asking yourself, what can I do to help? First of all, assess the safety factor for yourself, instead of trying to rescue. Find a certified domestic violence shelter closest to your area. Keep the hotline number with you- or programmed into your phone. If the victim is a close friend or relative, encourage them-

  • to develop a plan by talking to a person they can trust
  • call 911 for help as soon as possible
  • *keep important papers, social security cards, insurance documents, ID, driver license, birth certificates and passports
  • arrange a signal with a neighbor to let them know you need help, ask them to be ready to call 911
  • if a situation seems unavoidable, try to be near an exit and away from weapons
  • teach your children to go to another room, how to call 911, and make sure they know a safe place to go
  • ask your healthcare provider, beautician, co-worker or friend to take photos of your injuries and make sure the photographs are in a safe place

Some victims are so overwhelmed- even the above suggestions are too much to handle. However, just making a plan is often empowering. Ask them to write out:

  • If I need help I can talk to:  add name and phone number
  • If they are not available I’ll go to:   add name and phone number
  • In an emergency I can go to:  put emergency numbers here with 911 in bold numbers
  • The hotline or number for local shelter or safe house
  • Keep this information on hand.

Making a plan is often the first step a victim takes toward escape. If you do not know a victim of domestic violence- you still can help.  Here is the Pocketbook Project:

What’s in your handbag?

  • Wallet?  Donate as much as you can to a local certified shelter, regardless of the size of the donation every bit helps. If you shop on Amazon- look for the banner, Amazon Smile– which donates a portion of every purchase you make to the charity of your choice- Mine is YWCA Central Alabama!!!
  • Tissues? Every shelter needs paper products! It is amazing the amount of paper products women and children need
  • Comb or Hairbrush? The next time you go to your beautician, give her the hotline number for your local shelter- so that she can have it on hand. Beauticians are often the first to know if a woman is being abused.
  • Medications? Let this be a reminder that your healthcare provider is also a resource for identifying victims of domestic violence- again, ask them to display or have on hand- the names of local shelters and a plan of action. Healthcare providers take seriously their responsibility to report suspected abuse.
  • Cosmetics? Women leave home with the clothes on their backs- sample or full size cosmetics could mean the world to a person trying to regain her balance. Cosmetics are vital to self esteem and when it is time to go for an interview- indispensable.
  • Paperback? Volunteer to read to a child in a shelter while their parent receives counselling and legal services
  • Cellphone? Call your local shelter or Certified Organization and ask how you can help.. Even cellphones which are no longer in use, can be re-furbished; with a gift card or phone card- these cellphones can be the difference between life, injury or death for victims of domestic violence!

Your very own Pocketbook Project can mean more than you could ever believe…


‘Every woman deserves a purse of her own.’    Susan B. Anthony

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Let me tell you about Purse and Passion’s- Our Place, since it was founded in our small county in 2009, we have been able to provide legal assistance, court advocacy for more than 5000 victims! And we have provided safe shelter for close to 500 women and children. In 2015, Our Place, the only certified shelter for victims of domestic violence in our county provided:

  • shelter for 86 women and children who were no longer safe in their homes
  • provided legal services to 66 victims
  • guided 449 victims through the complex legal system with our court advocacy program
  • provided support groups for 18 women and children
  • as a bonus program-Prom Dress Giveaway which often helps identify at-risk teens we provided free prom dresses for 20 high school girls in need.

All funds raised at our Purse and Passion Luncheon remain here- in our hometowns! We provide:

  • case management and crisis counselling
  • food and re-housing assistance
  • financial literacy programs (this is different from not knowing how to read- it is knowing how to manage money)
  • community outreach
  • healthy relationship education
  • and free legal assistance.

Wow! That’s a lot! Right now, we are working very hard to raise funds for our Annual Purse and Passion/St.Clair Luncheon which is our only fundraiser. The needs are great, our people are so generous and amazing. If you do not have a local organization- Go to: ywcabham.org to find out more! We simply could not do this without the ongoing support of YWCA Central Alabama! You do not have to live in our area to help. A special thank you to my dear friend Elizabeth, who lives in New York- yet donates to Our Place! Her help and your help saves lives. Please remember –

 A house is not a home unless everyone inside is safe.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is Camellia’s Cottage- post #100, the longest post offered thus far. To honor that milestone- it had to be something worth reading, thank you for stopping by. If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence please know our hearts are with you and that there is help, you can start a new life. The blogging community is doing a wonderful job on highlighting emotional and mental health issues, we honor them, as well as WordPress, who gives the space, the platform to bloggers to speak their minds and hearts..

*C.H.A.O.S – is a phrase I first heard on a wonderful website for homemakers- flylady.com

* ‘Fashion in History- Apparel in the Western World’, 1970 by Marybelle’s Bigelow- San Diego State College.

Amazon Smile – with every purchase you make from Amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will go toward the charity of your choice!