HURON — Domestic violence impacts families in every community, whether large or small. The community of Huron is no different; the YWCA and the Jan Manolis Family Safe Center are the main organizations focused on providing services for the victims of domestic abuse.
Melanie Timm, executive director of the YWCA, said the organization has helped a tremendous amount of people who have been in very bad domestic violence situations.
Timm, who has been the director since 2008, says she is very passionate about helping others. “It’s not an easy job, but it’s very rewarding,” she said.
The Huron YWCA has many resources available for victims of domestic violence or abuse, and also for their children. “We have an emergency shelter, legal advocacy, medical advocacy, emergency financial assistance, transportation and support for the victims,” she said. “We also help them relocate and help with the basic necessities such as food, clothing and personal hygiene items.”
Every circumstance is different and comes with its own set of challenges, added Timm.
“There’s not a one size fits all solution, and in every case, we do safety planning to determine what the definition of safe is to that particular individual,” she explained. “And then help them achieve what it is they need to be safe.”
The YWCA can also help people work with local law enforcement to get protection orders and stalking orders. And to help the growing population of refugees and minorities in the community, the YWCA has bilingual staff members.
“We do outreach to the Karen and Hispanic population regularly,” said Timm. “I have staff members who speak Burmese, Thai, Karen and Spanish,” she said.
Every month through Karen social services, the YWCA puts on a presentation about their domestic violence program. “We give the presentation to everyone, men and women. We have helped several Karen individuals who were victims of violence,” said Timm.
Not having had many resources in the other countries they’ve lived in, the Karen refugees are still learning what services are available to them here. “I think that through education and knowledge and understanding what their rights are in the U.S. and that there are people here to help them, we will see higher numbers,” she said. The number of Latinos they have helped at the shelter has increased every year, said Timm. “It goes back to understanding that this is not something that you have to tolerate — there are people who can help.”
She said she has received very positive feedback from some of the people that have used their emergency shelter and have been helped by their programs at the YWCA. “The personal notes that come back later have said ‘you have no idea what impact you have in my life, and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support that was provided to me.’”
The YWCA crisis hotline can be reached at 461-9087.
“We really see the impact we’ve made in people’s lives almost every day,” said Timm.
The Jan Manolis Family Safe Center is another resource for victims of domestic violence. Manolis was with the YWCA domestic abuse services from 1984 until 2009, when she decided to start her own shelter.
Manolis had a close family member that endured domestic abuse until they were able to help her get away from the situation. “That was in the 70s, and in those days, there wasn’t a program to help,” said Manolis. “We kind of thought we were the only family going through that. There wasn’t anybody to turn to. We went through law enforcement, but that’s about all we could do.”
Manolis said it usually takes five to seven times of leaving before the victim being abused will leave for good.
“People go back all the time, we might get them two or three times here before they leave their abuser for good,” she said. Some have asked Manolis if that frustrates her. “I just tell them ‘it happens,’” said Manolis. “Economics is a big reason they go back,” she said.
The mission of the Jan Manolis Family Safe Center is to “offer shelter and services for the victims of domestic abuse; to build self esteem and confidence so they may live freely and independently, as is their God-given right.”
Services they offer include a 24-hour hotline, shelter, education, advocacy, food, counseling, legal and medical assistance, transportation and help finding permanent housing.
Security is a high priority at the Jan Manolis Family Safe Center, where they change security codes regularly in their shelter facility. The shelter has already seen 107 victims this year, from Jan. 1st through October 22. That number is higher than last year.
“People don’t realize how much abuse goes on here,” said Cindy Eckmann, assistant director of the Jan Manolis Family Safe Center. “When I started working here, I was surprised to find out how prevalent domestic abuse is, and I was born and raised in Huron.”
She said that some of the abuse stems from alcohol and drug use, lack of anger management and also from a family history of domestic violence.
“People that come from households where there has been abuse — either verbal or physical — will eventually look for someone to abuse or think that it’s okay to be in a relationship with an abuser. And it just continues on.”
The shelter is a place to stay while the victims are getting back on their feet. “They can stay here but have to be actively looking for a place to stay,” said Eckmann. Sometimes they will help with the first month’s rent on an apartment.
If someone comes in who doesn’t have the education they need, like a high school diploma, the Jan Manolis Family Safe Center directs them to the Cornerstones Career Center where they can start a program to attain their GED.
“Or if she is qualified, but hasn’t been working for 10 years, we can help her write a résumé and assist in the job-hunting process,” said Manolis. The shelter also helps her care for her children. “If she needs to find daycare, we help with that,” said Manolis. “Or if she needs to get set up with food stamps, we help set that up as well,” Manolis said. Some people come to these shelters with nothing, just the clothes on their back.
Donations they are always looking for include towels, sheets, pillows, dishes, silverware and furniture items.
Just like the YWCA, every month the Jan Manolis Safety Center gives presentations through Karen social services. “We use a translator and explain what to do in the event of spousal or domestic abuse,” said Eckmann. “Our goal in the future is to educate these children from these families so they understand just because you might see this violence happening at home, doesn’t mean it’s right or normal,” she said.
It’s tough for victims to leave everything behind. “Your instinct is to go back to what’s safe and familiar — even though it’s really not safe at all,” explained Eckmann.
For Manolis and Eckmann, a large part of their jobs is about support, and building up others’ self-esteem. The low-self esteem comes from being in that abusive relationship. “You get beat down so many times that you start believing it,” said Eckmann. “Sometimes, it’s really about just being there for them,” she said. “And making them aware of how much they are worth, as a person.”
If you are in an abusive relationship and want to talk to someone who can help, call the 24-hour hotline at the Manolis Family Safe Center at 350-6663 or 350-6690, or call the YWCA crisis hotline at 461-9087. For the complete article see the 10-31-2012 issue.
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