“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” – Albert Einstein
The concept of having a peaceful home – feeling safe and secure where we live and who we are with, is central to everyone’s well-being. After all, if you don’t feel safe, how can you focus on anything else? This week, our Project SARAH Coordinator, Hilary Platt, shared with me an email she had received from Donna, a JFCS domestic violence client. Donna* wrote:
“I can’t thank you enough. There’s nothing I can say that would fully express my gratitude for everything you’ve done for me. Including putting up with me and my stress and anxiety as I shared how bad it was getting. Having someone to talk to – who supported me – no matter what happened…even when I didn’t leave or go to the police…means so much to me. For years, I pushed away friends and family. I felt utterly alone and stuck. Just to be able to send an email, feeling like I had people on my side, was something I didn’t have for years. You gave me the push to leave. The support and advice you gave me when I shared that I was assaulted, helped me get through the grueling process with the police. I’m so happy I did go through with everything, but I owe that to you all. I’m so looking forward to rebuilding and growing and finding myself again. Thank you.”
Donna came to us, like many clients, while she was still married to her abuser. She wanted to leave but didn’t know how to take that next step. We validated her feelings and let her know she was not alone – that she had choices. In those early months, we met often and practiced safety planning while she still lived in the house. One night, she suffered unimaginable abuse – both physically and psychologically. This was the catalyst for her to leave: she went to the police and reported the abuse. JFCS was with her every step of the way.
Once Donna decided to leave, our plan went into effect. We provided her with a place to live – our Charlotte’s Place safe house apartment – while she looked for housing. She received food from the Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantry and counseling through our Faye Manger Counseling Department. She attended our SARAH Supports group, where she met others who have struggled through similar issues and found a community and emotional support. It took time and hard work for Donna to find her way, but she is now safe and building a new future for herself.
Donna’s story fills me with pride. I am proud that she had the courage to persevere and survive and proud that our staff provided her with life-saving services.
So many domestic violence programs only support clients after they have left their abusive partners. What makes JFCS unique is that we often begin our work while our clients are still living with their abusers. We recognize the difficulties that our clients face, and we always meet them wherever they are. Our domestic violence coordinators, Hilary Platt and Marci Rosenstein, are tireless advocates who go above and beyond to ensure that our clients have a safe place either – in their own homes or in the community. When Hilary and Marci are not with our clients, they can be found in area schools teaching children to build healthy relationships, preventing abuse before it starts.
Donna’s story is not unique. Last year, Hilary and Marci served almost 90 clients through case management, housing, support groups, counseling, financial assistance, advocacy, resource referrals, and more. And they’ve done so with compassion, kindness, and grace. I am so grateful to Hilary, Marci, and the entire JFCS staff for bringing hope and healing to so many in our community.
Wishing you love and peace this Shabbat,
*Names changed for confidentiality