Reflection at Penelope House

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Awareness brings us to share in the caring of one another.

Domestic abuse, more commonly referred to as domestic violence, involves a pattern of violence and emotional abuse in any relationship as a means to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.  Domestic violence can include physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats that harm or influence another person.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of his/her race, age, sexual orientation or gender.  Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

The victim suffering from severe bruising and deafening yells isn’t the only victim; family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses and the community at large are suffering too.  Children who experience and witness this first hand domestic violence are especially affected.  Extreme and frequent exposure to violence, particularly in one’s family or home environment, teaches kids that violence is an acceptable and normal way of life.  This attitude or lesson therefore increases their risk of becoming society’s generation of abusers and victims.

Is this an unbreakable vicious cycle though? No. Since the 1980’s an approach known as the Duluth Model has been used to hold batterers accountable for their actions and keep the victims safe.  Communities utilizing the Duluth Model prioritize the experiences of the victim affected by the battering and create policies and procedures in accordance with this priority.  Duluth “communities” have shared policies and procedures for holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe across all agencies and even in criminal and civil justice systems from the moment they call 911.  Duluth communities believe that battering is a pattern of behaviors that are intentionally expressed to control or dominate an intimate partner; these communities actively engage in societal conditions that aim at changing methods of power and control that men use over women in these situations.  These offers help change opportunities for offenders by offering court-ordered educational groups for batters.  Furthermore, these communities engage in ongoing discussions between criminal and civil agencies, community members and victims to close gaps and improve the community’s response to battering. Similar to the Duluth communities is the Penelope House, a non-profit organization established in 1979 to help victims of domestic violence regain social and economic independence.

Peace on Earth Begins at Home.  These six words stand strong on the Penelope House website atop their mission statement, “The mission of Penelope House is to provide safety, protection, and support to the victims of Domestic Violence and their children through the provision of shelter, advocacy, and individual community education.” Through my volunteer work at Penelope House, I would say that their unofficial mission is to be the home where peace begins or can begin for victims of domestic violence.

Our place is your place… to find shelter. This Family Violence Center is the only shelter for battered women and children in Mobile, Alabama.  Penelope House services include advocacy, community education, counseling, on site medical care, schools prevention education, transitional living, and victim’s support group.  A children’s program is also available for on-site care for in-shelter, school age children.  The transitional living aspect allows for temporary housing, usually no longer than four months.

As a volunteer at Penelope House I have witnessed the extreme care, value, and respect for each person at the shelter.  Penelope house is that hug, that comforting place where you feel safe.  And if need be, Penelope house won’t let go, it will keep you safe.