Domestic violence: From escaping to healing

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – This is a subject that we typically address in October, because October is domestic violence awareness month, but we realize it’s a topic that’s applicable year-round. You may know someone in your life who is impacted by this. Perhaps you are. We’ll look at the facts of abuse, how healing for survivors and their families is just a phone call away. If that, it’s so easy and it’s so close, we want you to know that we want you to know how to get help as well.

Brad Means: And Amy, thanks for what you do for your clients and their families. And thanks for being here again with us.

Aimee Hall: Absolutely, and thank you for having me as always.

Brad Means: You know, I want to start with something I think we start with every time, at least we touch on it every time we’re together. And that’s sort of the general definition of domestic violence. I want the viewers to know that somebody is not a victim of domestic violence exclusively because they’re being physically abused. There are other parts of it, right?

Aimee Hall: Absolutely Brad and you’re right, domestic violence is all about power and control. And a lot of people, when they think about domestic violence, they do, they think of the physical or the black eye. But it is more than that. And so there’s the emotional abuse, there’s the sexual abuse, there’s also isolation. That is all part of the domestic violence.

Brad Means: How’s this pandemic treated everybody at SafeHomes and treated the business really of helping domestic violence victims. We’ve done so many stories here on Channel 6, about child abuse and how, when the kids were not in school, there was nobody to report signs or symptoms of child abuse. What about for domestic violence?

Aimee Hall: It was about the same. So when the pandemic first started and it was shelter in place, we were receiving very minimal phone calls and people reaching out for help. And, you know, it never really dawned on me until I had a survivor call me and she had expressed that if her abuse had been going on during the pandemic, she would have probably gotten killed and no one would have ever really known. And that’s when it really struck me that, the victims could not call, everyone was sheltered in place. They didn’t have a safe place to go to make that phone call. They didn’t have a job to go to, to maybe reach out for help. And so it was, it was like crickets there for a little bit. And then once the shelter in place was released or relinquished, then we started seeing an uptick of phone calls and our crisis calls increased about 60%, once the shelter in place was released.

Brad Means: My goodness.

Aimee Hall: So, yeah, so we really started seeing, the victims start to reach out and then we did have to, you know, It was hard because we had a shelter that was full. We had to get a 50% capacity, but we still had a full shelter at 50%. And then we were placing overflow in hotels, just trying to keep everyone safe as we could at that time.

Brad Means: What about, you mentioned the loss of a job and so a victim doesn’t go to work and her coworkers don’t see any signs or symptoms. When someone loses a job, maybe it’s the abuser who’s lost a job. Does that contribute to the numbers when it comes to domestic violence? The economic strain that people feel?

Aimee Hall: I do think that’s part of it. I don’t think, you know, there’s so many myths about domestic violence and, you know, maybe alcohol causes domestic or drug related or even financial . But gain, domestic violence is all about power and control, but there are stressors that exasperate domestic violence, such as the financial stress. And then with the pandemic, we had no idea what was going on, what was gonna be the next step. And then a lot of parents became teachers at that moment because all of our kids were home. And so all of that impacted the victims of domestic violence.

Brad Means: Do you have any limitations now that it feels like, knock on wood, things are subsiding. Do you have any limitations to what you can do or what SafeHomes can provide or are you able to be close with your clients and help them?

Aimee Hall: No, we’re still able to be close to our clients. And we’ve never stopped offering the services. You know, like I said, in our shelter space, we had to maintain about 50% capacity because we wanted to make sure that we could social distance everyone and keep everyone safe, since we work in a high-risk environment. However, we still provided those services. Even if the client was in a hotel, we were still providing the case management. We were still providing the food. We were still providing financial assistance. And so we never stopped offering those essential services to the victims.

Brad Means: Boy I tell you for so many times when we used to get together and have these interviews, we would focus our talks on grownups and the domestic violence that occurs between adults. And then we started a while back to talk about dating violence and stalking and issues that kids face. Do you still see that at SafeHomes? Do you still see young people needing your services?

Aimee Hall: Absolutely, teen dating violence is on the rise. And you know, as we’ve talked about before, a lot of this domestic violence is generational. These kids are mimicking a lot of times what they see at home. And so we have, you know, we continuously see an increase in our teen dating violence, I believe right now, Georgia ranks third in the nation with boys, for teen dating violence. And so, that’s a service that we take pride in is making sure that we’re providing prevention into our schools. We’re making sure that our social workers know that SafeHome’s is here and that we can help teens as well as children who are victims of domestic violence.

Brad Means: And now we’re going to talk about the counseling opportunities and services that are available at SafeHomes in our next segment with one of your counselors. And we’ll address what they can do for young people by way of counseling and healing. But what can we do at home Amy with our kids? What should we say before they go to school? Or maybe if they’re a little bit older before they go to their jobs, to help them be on the lookout for dating violence or any sort of violence against their young coworkers or classmates.

Aimee Hall: It’s all about the awareness and education, so many people that don’t realize that what violence is or what those warning signs are. And so, you know, just like I tell my daughter, if you see something that just doesn’t feel right, tell someone. Tell someone, a teacher or someone at school. And as far as parents talk to your teens. And it even starts earlier than teens now, we’re seeing elementary, middle school. But really teaching our kids what healthy relationships look like, that it’s okay to say no. And it starts with the parents really, educating our kids. What healthy relationships look like and what those are.

Brad Means: My last question for you is what can members of the community do to help SafeHomes? I know that you provide services 24/7. I know that costs money. How can everybody help you?

Aimee Hall: Absolutely, we are always looking for donations. We do have our largest fundraiser coming up, Fake It to Make It, in January. And so you can find out more information about that on our website. But you know, we’re always looking for someone to volunteer. We’re always looking for board members and we’re always looking for any kind of donations, a lot of times when the victims leave our care, we make sure that they’re established in a home. And so we try to make sure that they have the furniture and the essential items that they need. So we’re always looking for any kind of donations, but that definitely offsets the cost of our operation calls. And so we have donation days the first Friday of every month, if anyone wanted to, you know, have items to donate.

Brad Means: Well, I appreciate that information, Amy. And as I said before, I appreciate all you do for this community. I know we’re gonna talk to a counselor on the other side of the break, but thank you for being with me today as always.

Aimee Hall: Absolutely, thank you for having me.

Brad Means: Amy Hall, the executive director of SafeHomes. In a moment more about the services safe homes provides how you can take advantage of those services and get you or someone you love in your life on the road to healing. We’ll be right back.

CHILD VICTIM: I’ve seen things. I’ve seen things nobody should see. I’ve seen my daddy hurt my mommy. I was afraid he might hurt her so bad that she goes to heaven. Now I feel safe. My mommy says she is starting a new job and we’re going to have a new home. Me and my sister are happy. Everyone here is nice to us. We’re gonna be okay.

COUNSELOR: Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from domestic violence. Every day, right here in our community, we’re giving entire families hope. Our ongoing support, programs and temporary housing allow victims to break the cycle of violence. When you support SafeHomes, you’re giving them a chance. Give until it doesn’t hurt, donate your time, your money, or your resources today to rescue children and families in our community through SafeHomes.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report, as promised, we continue to cover domestic violence on this edition of The Means Report. And we are joined by a counselor from SafeHomes. Hana Perkey, Hana continues the great work that Amy talked about in our first segment. Hana, thank you for what you do for your clients in this community. And thanks for taking time out of your busy day to be here with us.

Hana Perkey: My pleasure.

Brad Means: I wanna take a look at the counseling services that you have at safe homes, who is eligible to be a part of this counseling?

Hana Perkey: So any of our current clients are eligible for counselings. The way that one can become a client is just to call the hotline number that is on our website, probably was on your screen a little while ago. And once that call was made, that process is started towards the referral for counseling.

Brad Means: And so would somebody have to live at the shelter, to go to these counseling sessions, or they could be someone who is, I don’t know if outpatient is the right word, but people who live at the shelter and people who don’t are both eligible I’m guessing.

Hana Perkey: That’s a great question. So we do provide, of course, we provide services to our residential clients, but we also serve our outreach clients. So that’s the word I think you were looking for. And we try to meet our clients where they are in all the different phases of their journey towards healing and survivorship. So even if there are people out there maybe that feel like they may be in an abusive relationship, maybe they’re not sure what the steps that they need to take are. They can still call us and we will start seeing them for counseling services, even if they’re still in that abusive relationship or trying to decide whether or not to make that transition to safety.

Brad Means: Are these one-on-one or group sessions or both?

Hana Perkey: So our primary service is individual counseling. So that’s the one on one, but we try to connect all of our clients to a community of peers. So we also have lots of groups. We do have a weekly survivor support group, and then we provide groups depending on the interest and the enrollment, we have a group that’s focused on young children, elementary school age children. We also have a group for teens, which we are very proud of because we’re certified. It’s a very effective group treatment, structured psychotherapy for adolescents responding to chronic stress or SPARCS for short. And we provide two different parenting groups, one for the parents who are coming in with the younger children. And one specifically for those who are coming in with teens. And in addition to that, we also create therapeutic workshops. So one Friday a month we’ll have an hour long seminar or workshop that can be more focused on maybe psycho-education like a workshop about stalking, or we can focus more on symptoms. We have a sleep clinic that we try to share with our clients or it’s really kind of about whatever topics the clients bring to us.

Brad Means: Yeah it sounds like you cover the whole gamut so that that all issues can be addressed. Let’s go back to those one-on-one sessions you mentioned, is it possible at that point because people are in potentially their darkest hour after they work up the courage to place that phone call and to start their relationship with SafeHomes. Is it possible in the early going to have medical professionals that can help them through the early stages? Kind of tell me who’s gonna be in the room for those one-on-one sessions.

Hana Perkey: So they’re gonna be in a room with a counselor. So we have two licensed counselors who work on staff on site. And then we also have interns that we train and supervise that do counseling sessions with our clients. We do recommend though, you know, refer people for medication management, if that’s what they want, or if that’s what’s indicated, it just kind of depends on the client and their particular needs and struggles.

Brad Means: Look at the Magic in Me program. The Magic in Me sessions are for very young children. What happens there and what’s your goal with that kind of counseling?

Hana Perkey: So Magic in Me is a 12 session group for young children. It’s one that I have designed and it’s a lot of fun. What we try to do is use somatic experiencing interventions to help children deal with the physiological consequences of trauma. So the stress that still lives in their body. And we kind of combine that with psycho-education about body safety and personal safety. And we do that through a lot of interactive play.

Brad Means: And are these people who have witnessed domestic violence or who have been abused themselves?

Hana Perkey: So the children who come from Magic in Me are usually childhood to domestic violence. They are the children of our clients. Maybe a survivor was more concerned because they can see that their children are struggling.

Brad Means: And then are there separate sessions for parents of those children? And again, we’ve talked about sessions that are available for domestic violence victims, the experts who are on hand to walk them through that part of what safe homes does, but, you know, grownups are traumatized by what they witness as well. Can you help those parents out through some sessions?

Hana Perkey: Of course, they can be receiving individual counseling. We really place great importance on quality of care that we provide. We’re so lucky to have Amy as our executive director, because she does allow for our counselors to pursue a certification and continuing education in order to be able to be effective with our clients. Our staff counselors are EMDR trained, which EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy, which is one of the very big evidence-based interventions for PTSD and complex trauma. So we continuously learn new skills and new interventions because we really do try to be as effective as we can be for our clients.

Brad Means: Hana what’s it like in that room when a victim or somebody who is somehow connected to the trauma of domestic violence finds out that they’re not alone when they hear somebody else talk and they say, oh my goodness, other people are bearing this burden. That’s gotta be such a huge moment when, when that connection really begins.

Hana Perkey: I love those moments. You see that a lot in our survivor support group, when people often at the beginning, you know, they’re very apprehensive to try to join in and share some of their experiences. And oftentimes at the end of their very first session, there’s a support group session. They will say, you know, when I came in here, I really didn’t think that anyone would understand. I really thought that I would be different from everyone in this room. And just to be able to hear the stories and realize that we share those experiences. And there are other people out there like me makes me feel so much more calm and so much safer. And I think those are some of the greatest moments when you know that, that survivors gonna come back to the support group and they’re gonna be able to use our services.

Brad Means: Hana, is it likely that somebody, if they do, and I hope they do, if they’re in trouble, place that called to SafeHomes and start to become involved with y’all, is it likely that they’re gonna see somebody who looks like them? Who’s in a similar situation. In other words, this hits everybody in society, right?

Hana Perkey: Yes, absolutely, we always encourage people… COVID has been difficult because most of our groups have transitioned into virtual format and we’re always walking that line, trying to figure out how to allow more personal connection during groups. And we encourage all of our clients. And often it’s all socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s all ethnic backgrounds, it’s all educational backgrounds. So it doesn’t look like anyone in particular.

Brad Means: You know, we try so hard as parents to say the right things. And I addressed this with Amy in our first segment, we wonder how we can teach our children to behave properly in a dating environment and how to avoid certain red flags that might signal that somebody could be abusive to them. What do you tell the young people when you’ve got them under your roof, you’ve got that captive audience and you want to talk about things like dating violence and stalking, and some of the stuff we see on social media these days, what are some of the key points you try to talk to with them, you try to address with them.

Hana Perkey: So sometimes that can be really complex because some of these young people are coming from families, maybe they have seen relationships and relationship dynamics that are not exactly safe or healthy. And so for instance, in our group for teens in our SPARCS group, we have a whole segment that’s devoted to what feels safe in a relationship, what are the expectations that you should have of your partner, how do you maintain healthy boundaries? And so we kind of work with them to start to have their own realizations about what safe and healthy relationships should look like for them.

Brad Means: That’s a huge help. Okay I have 30 seconds. I’m so glad we still have a second left. What’s the Food and your Mood workshop. Give me this super quick version of that.

Hana Perkey: So this is a popular one for our clients and our staff. During the workshop, we really kind of focus on how your diet can affect your mood and the some foods that can make you more depressed if you’re already feeling depressed and the foods that you need to be able to maintain the positive mood.

Brad Means: Okay, that’s great, I can see why it’s popular. Hana we appreciate you so much for what you’re doing for people of all ages in our community to help them when it comes to domestic violence and how to function in society after they leave SafeHomes. Thanks for everything.

Hana Perkey: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Absolutely, Hana Perkey with safe homes.

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Brad Means

The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.