Safe Harbor Reaches Out to Abuse Victims Over 50
Safe Harbor, which provides confidential shelters for abused women and children based in Henrico, recently uncovered some alarming victim statistics.
Governor Bob McDonnell declared October Domestic Violence Awareness Month and set up a prevention and response advisory board.
Verdery: Those of us who provide services to survivors of domestic violence, that it felt like we were serving more people who were over 50, and that there were some challenges within that that were different than the folks who we've traditionally served.
Safe Harbor’s Angela Verdery.
Verdery: We just kinda kept talking about it, it came up as a trend a couple of times and then I went and ran some numbers on it, and what we found was that we had served four times as many adults over fifty this past year than we have the previous year.
One woman, who asked that I call her “Blessed”, was among those victims.
Blessed: I've been with this guy for like thirty years and he was really controlling at first and was just verbal and he just do whatever he wanted to do. You know, I'm the forgiving type and I would just think that, 'oh, one day he'll change,' but it never happened and look and could not think of anything to go to, a place that I could go to get away from him.
Verdery said Safe Harbor realized its method of operation was uniquely suited to these women over 50, the forgotten victims of domestic abuse.
Verdery: We focus on what each individual needs, and so we don't kinda have like a cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all service because that doesn't do justice for people who are surviving violence, because each relationship and each experience is different. There may be some common themes and trends and things like that, so I feel like we were in a good position to adapt when we started to notice this.
It surprised her, she added, to discover that women over 50 are less likely to try to get help.
Verdery: You see that in lots of groups who are underserved and mis-served, but that not only that piece of it, but, you know, experiencing domestic violence in later life seemed to have greater health risks. One of the studies found that folks who experience domestic violence in later life are more likely to have a shorter life span.
Blessed, who’s 52, said leaving her abusive partner of 32 years was difficult because in spite of everything, although angry, she felt love for him. Safe Harbor’s advice:
Blessed: You have to forgive him in order to move on. As long as you're holding on to what he did, he still has that control over you, and honestly, I forgave him, I talk to him now, but it's not like talking to him like, 'oh, yeah, we're gonna get back together.'
To help break the cycle of domestic violence, Verdery noted, Safe Harbor not only offers a place for abuse victims to stay safely, but counseling, education, advocacy and help getting established in a permanent home.
Verdery: The first thing that I recommend for most any individual is to call our 24-hour hotline, and that's 804-287-7877, and you can talk with a trained advocate who has experience working with all different ages of people, including those over 50, and about the challenges that are inherent in experiencing violence and what works best for that individual. Sometimes just knowing that you're not alone and that there's help out there, can be an important first step for somebody to take.
There’s information on line at safeharborshelter.org.
John Ogle, WCVE News