A STORY FROM THE SOUTH....

Saturday afternoon the phone rings. The officer asked, “Is this the Domestic Violence advocate?”

As an advocate you must step back and look at the big picture. A client might not have anyone to lean on. After emotional and physical abuse, clients have no one to talk with and no help.

“We have a young lady and her three children needing an advocate’s help. She has left her home due to an abusive boyfriend.  She got a ride to the Sheriff’s Department and has nowhere to go,” the officer explained.   

Arriving at the Sheriff’s Department I didn’t realize what a huge task I would be taking on.
I introduced myself to the client and the children. I told the client I was there for her, and she could trust me. We discussed her options.  We discussed a safety plan, confidentially and other policies, and a plan for what she needed from her home. As we neared the home, the client got more nervous the closer we got to the house.  The client looked in the mirrors of the car every five seconds to make sure the deputies were close by, and that no one else was following. 

The client stated, “O.K. stop right here; my house is just past these trees on the left.”    I reminded her, “If you need me, I will be right here. Don’t worry; the deputies are going to take you to the house just in case your boyfriend is home.”  The client got out of the car, and ran down the street until I could no longer see her. The children scream because they can no longer see mom.  “Its O.K., Mommy will be right back. She is just getting your clothes, and some of your toys.” I tried to calm the children.

A short time later, I saw the client with arms full of clothes, running as fast as she could towards my car.  The client returned to the car, put her armful of items in the trunk, and plopped down in her seat. She was frantic and breathing hard.   She explained, while she caught her breath, “He wasn’t there, but I got as much as I could grab in my arms and fled.”

We left the home area as fast as we could. A few miles down the road, the client realized she forgot her medication that her child must take daily.

The advocate called a deputy who was at the client’s home to explain we needed to go back to the house for medication. The deputy explained the boyfriend arrived at the home, when they found illegal unknowns.  The deputy stated we could not return to the home until the illegal situation had been handled.

The client exclaimed, “We have to wait somewhere until we can return to the house for the medicine!”   “No problem, we can wait at the diner up the road until the deputy says it’s O.K. to return to the home.”  I bought food for the client and the children. We tried to eat slowly to pass time. The children became unruly, throwing toys and running across the restaurant.  We went outside so the children could play in the small area of grass hoping we wouldn’t be there much longer.  The unruly children played and fought for an hour in the grass. “Would you please call the deputy to see how much longer it will take?”asked the client. I tried to calm the children who were upset over leaving their home.  I called the deputy again. “You cannot return yet, I promise to call as soon as it’s O.K. for you to return,” said the deputy.

I explained the conversation to the impatient client.  We continued to talk. “It’s so hard to leave, when the easiest road is to stay. I’m so tired of being treated this way. I have to get away from him, but I still love him,” the client explained.  “I understand it is hard to leave. You have to do what is best for you and your children. Your children witness the emotional abuse and physical abuse. If you don’t get them out of that environment, it’s highly likely they will act the same way when they get older. You don’t deserve to be treated like that. You’re doing the best thing,” the advocated stated.

After another two hours, we all were getting tired and becoming impatient. I called the deputy again. The deputy apologized for the wait and stated it wouldn’t be much longer.  Another hour passed. Around 10:00 p.m. my phone rang. The deputy stated the coast was clear to return to the house. We traveled near the home again. The deputies guided the client to the house to get the medication.  The client returned to the car in tears. She was shaken up and not ready to start her life all over again. I assured her again she was making the right decision.

When we arrived at the shelter, it was close to midnight.  The children were sound asleep and we did not want to wake them. The client settled them in, then returned to the car.  “Thank you so much for all of your help and your encouraging words. I think I’m doing the best thing for my children and me. I am ready for my new start in life,” the client explained.

I wished her well, and assured her I would be there to help.  The beginning of this long process was not good, but the ending was gratifying.  Victims would have no help if advocates did not exist. Advocacy is very important to help victims and their children start new beginnings and get out of bad environments.

 

February 2010

Illinois Coalition of Domestic Violence