Most of us have read or seen a version of Alice in Wonderland. Disney’s images of the 19th century story range from amusing to frantic to terrifying (at least to a small child). Imagine the 21st century Alice falling into the rabbit hole of domestic violence.
Out of concern for her beloved cat, Alice follows her down the rabbit hole. At first, Wonderland is a beautiful dream world. She meets fascinating new characters. Eventually these characters become confusing, then chaotic. She is chased by strange beings. Her identity is taken from her and seriously altered. No one will help her or even listen to her. Her life is threatened.
Now, imagine Alice in the 21st century, the time of television, internet, and cell phones. She has experienced situations that are bewildering, frustrating, and painful. She doesn’t know who she is any more and wonders if she ever did. She may be isolated or far away from anyone or anything familiar. She may be in mortal danger. She has been abused (emotionally, mentally, financially, or physically). She sees a public service ad or a news item about domestic violence on television. Maybe she has a friend who wants to help her. Maybe she starts looking for information about and resources for domestic violence on the Internet. She uses her cell phone or a friend’s phone to call the AWP hotline.
The hotline is Alice’s first step on her path out of the rabbit hole. She hears a warm and caring voice that offers her support and a variety of resources. She has entered the world of The Safe Options Project at A Woman’s Place (AWP). Perhaps for the first time in years, she has options and can choose which of those she wants. Someone listens to her with care and the absence of judgment. They help her identify her needs and take steps to meet the goals she selects.
The hotline has trained volunteers and staff to connect callers with all facets of The Safe Options Project. Callers who have just experienced an incident involving the police will be connected to the First Response team. This team works with the county’s 42 police departments and courts. The police and the hotline personnel have access to the Risk Assessment tool to help both the victim and the service providers identify the severity of their danger. First Response staff and volunteers provide support and assistance with obtaining temporary orders for Protection from Abuse (PFA).
The Legal Advocacy team takes over when Alice needs help getting through the maze of the judicial system. Without giving advice, they can offer support, explanations, guidance, and resources. Along with the Hotline and First Response teams, they can refer women and their children to AWP’s counseling resources. Our counselors meet with women at different safe locations throughout the county and at our community counseling center. Counseling staff and trained volunteers facilitate support groups around the county.
The shelter provides a resource for women and their children who need a full-time assurance of safety. If our shelter is full, we can refer women to programs in other parts of the state or other states. Some women want to return to family and support systems where they used to live. The shelter team interfaces with all the other parts of The Safe Options Project, as well as a variety of community resources. With assistance from the staff, Alice identifies her own needs and goals, develops a plan, and takes steps toward that safe and healthy future. A child counselor (who works with moms, too) helps the family recover from the violence they’ve witnessed and experienced.
Through The Safe Options Project, Alice discovers that she’s not alone, that there is life beyond domestic violence, and that she has the power to create a life of her own choosing.
What would our team do with the $5.8 billion dollars that domestic violence costs this country every year? We would expand our programs, staff and facilities to assure safety for all, so that every Alice could define “flourishing” for herself and have the means to do so.
The Safe Options Project Team