Helping Keira and others like her to be safe...
During this time of giving, please consider supporting the cause of helping those that have been traumatized and oppressed to build a better future. Whether through our shelters and outreach services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or residential and community programs that help individuals become stable following incarceration or a health crisis, we help those that are struggling to overcome the challenges they face. We have a broad reach throughout eight counties in NJ including Passaic, Essex, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, and Camden but our touch is local and impactful. Please read on for the story of Keira and her children served at the Camden County Women’s Center- just three individuals of well over 1000 individuals in 2019 that found a better future through our program services.
A story of one family…
Keira was home with their two 5 and 7 year old girls when her husband came home hours later than expected. He became angry when dinner wasn’t still warm and ready for him, escalating to Keira being punched in the face. She ran to the bedroom upstairs where her girls were hiding, locked the door and called 9-1-1. The police arrived, assessed the situation and arrested the husband. The children were dropped at a trusted neighbors’ house and Keira was taken to the hospital to be treated for what ended up being a fractured jaw.
At the hospital, Keira met Mia. Mia is part of the Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) in Camden County. The DVRT is activated by police officers to support victims at the time of police intervention. Mia stayed with Keira while the police completed their report and while she was treated at the hospital. They talked a lot about what might happen next. Mia did some “safety planning” with Keira. This is the term used for making a plan to stay as safe as possible within various situations that could be dangerous. Mia discussed legal options such as filing a temporary restraining order and how these actions that might impact her and her children’s safety. She also provided information on resources available, such as safe emergency shelter for her and her girls and ongoing legal advocacy support.
Keira decided that it was not safe to go home with her husband. This was far from the first time he had hit her and it was getting worse. Mia helped her call the CCWC 24-hour hotline and she arranged to move into the shelter that night, with her girls joining her the next day. At the shelter, Keira and her children had their own bedroom and bathroom, three nutritious meals each day and support from a Case Manager, Children’s Advocate and other caring professionals. Now that she had decided not to go back home with her abusive husband, she had to figure out what to do next. This felt overwhelming and she was exhausted. She spent two days just decompressing and reassuring her children that things would be OK.
On the third day, she and her Case Manager started to make a plan and broke it down into small manageable steps. Keira stayed at the shelter for 45 days and in that time she worked with shelter and community CCWC staff to obtain a restraining order, access rental assistance as well as Victims of Crime Compensation to help pay her medical expenses, and find an affordable rental apartment in the same school district. After she moved into her new apartment, she continued to access CCWC legal advocacy to update her safety plan and obtain a final restraining order. She also utilized other resources in the community that helped her prepare to find employment and quality daycare.
Keira also knew that she and her girls had been through a lot and that they needed more help to deal with the feelings of anxiety and anger they still felt. She enrolled them in the PALS creative arts therapy program- Peace-A Learned Solution. PALS used music and art therapy to help the girls express themselves about what they had seen, heard and experienced while living with their dad and how to process their feelings about him now. At the same time, Keira met with other parents that had experienced domestic violence and received emotional support from counselors to support her recovery from trauma. After six months in the PALS program, the girls were participating in school and interacting with classmates much more than they used to; they were sleeping better and crying less. Keira also reported feeling safe for the first time in years and had obtained employment, which helped her make some new friends and feel more empowered to support her family.
Nine months after her husband broke her jaw, Keira has gone through a contentious divorce in which her abuser continued to use control tactics to try to manipulate her actions and emotions. But now Keira has the emotional support of friends and a counselor, as well as a greater understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse and her rights as a victim that allowed her to see his actions for what they were. She and her girls continue to be safe and stable and are looking forward to a bright future.
Donate now to help families like this recover from trauma and find a safer and happier future!