A Friend’s House (AFS) will continue what it’s been doing for 20 years, so say it’s key staff members and board members. The staff and board are moving forward with what they do best: care for victims of domestic violence.
Marilyn Chaffin, the new executive director, brings three degrees following her hiring by the domestic violence shelter in August 2013. She has a bachelor’s degree in family counseling as well as associate degrees in chemical dependency and corrections. She has been a court advocate for victims and teams with Erica Burns, the shelter director, who also was hired in 2013.
They and two board members, Susan Dunham, board president, and Deeann Blake, board member, met with The Madison Press on Thursday to talk about the shelter’s mission for the victims of domestic violence in Madison County.
Dunham feels the public has a misconception about the shelter. It is more than just a “safe-house” for victims of domestic violence and their families. AFS functions in other ways, but always for the same purpose: to not only provide a safe, in-shelter experience, but also to assist victims when they go out of the shelter.
The physical house can provide a haven for a victim and her children. Life with a batterer traumatizes not only the spouse/girlfriend, but also her children. For the latter, a grant of $8,000 from Verizon has enabled AFS to create in one of the rooms of the house a special place for children. They can be observed in the environment to learn if counseling is needed for them in addition to the parent.
Dunham said in the instance of domestic violence within a household, everyone is victimized by the abuser.
Counseling is often needed for the victim. She has been abused physically and emotionally which plummets the victim’s self esteem.
“A lot of victims are depressed,” Dunham said. “We have to look at the psycho-socio effects. When victims come in they’re beaten down.”
Though they’re beaten down, with counseling AFS endeavors to bring about positive change in victims, so when they do leave they’re usually different people.
Even something as simple as allowing the abused person to decide what she wants for breakfast while in the shelter, can be a small step toward empowerment. As the staff move victims to that stage in their lives, Dunham said they not only support them, but comfort them, “to wipe away their tears and tell them it’s OK.”
That brings joy to the staff and board.
Chaffin said she’s heard, at AFS victims found a home.
“They never knew what home was like,” she said.
Should that abuser be prosecuted — AFS has assisted the court in at least six convictions — and incarcerated, AFS sets up “a vine.” It is a network which tells the victim when the abuser has completed the sentence and will be released back into the community. The victim is provided with a cell phone — courtesy of Verizon — so she can maintain contact with AFS 24/7.
“They can call anytime,” Dunham said.
Chaffin said AFS remains on good working relationships with Rachel Twining, executive director of Community Action as well as the court system and county prosecutor’s office.
“We try to make sure they (victims) have everything they need so they don’t go back to the batterer,” Dunham said. “They can go back for the most basic of things, including food or gasoline. AFS can provide gas vouchers through Community Action and food, which is collected by inmates at Madison Correctional Institution and delivered to the shelter.
Chaffin said the funding for the AFS remains intact and board members and volunteers are organizing fund-raising events. Friends for Friends, the shelter’s primary fundraiser, will be held Friday, May 2. Later that month, on the 24th, a golf outing will be held at Locust Hills in Clark County with Dr. Eric Smith as chairman.
Dean Shipley may be reached at (740) 852-1616, or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.