What people may not realize is the daily struggle that particularly comes with dealing with the children in these situations.
“Hearing and seeing domestic violence does greatly affect the children,” said Trisha Jones, a child advocate for Faith House. “A lot of times people think, ‘Oh, we’re just fighting in our bedrooms, they can’t hear us’ or ‘We try to keep the fights away from them,’ but the children are reporting differently. They are hearing about it; they’re seeing it.
“Even if they don’t see the actual fighting, they hear the screams and they see the aftermath and their little minds try to put together what happened.”
Jones, who has been with Faith House for nine years, spoke to the Rotary Club of Crowley Tuesday about the children, and specifically how people can help make sure the children that have already been through so much have a chance at a Merry Christmas.
Through the “Adopt-A-Family” program, the children, who likely went to the shelter with nothing or close to it, are given an opportunity to create a wish list. Those willing to help can then pick up a wish list, buy an item for the person on that list and return it to Brent Benson’s Allstate office.
As the deadline is fast approaching (Dec. 4), Jones’ presentation served as a perfect reminder and the chance to round up more volunteers to help make sure more children could receive a gift.
When the person returns the purchased gift or a gift certificate/card (i.e., to Walmart where Jones or someone with Faith House can purchase a gift) with the wish list card, the gift can be given to the right person. Jones reminded Rotarians that the gift did not need to be wrapped, but the card was necessary for identification purposes.
While the Christmas gift project received a lot of the focus, Jones did spend a large amount of her time pointing out how the children deal with abuse in different ways and how it is hard for them to explain what they are feeling.
Jones pointed out how confusion and guilt are two of the biggest emotions children deal with as they do not know what is fully going on, whether they should still love both parents, and so on. Depression and anxiety are also big with children as they feel ashamed sometimes of being a part of domestic violence and don’t want their friends to know.
There are also support groups for those that have been a part of domestic abuse situations.
“We strive to make them feel safe and to keep them safe,” Jones said.
Keeping all children safe is also important with violence prevention education in schools. For the lower elementary grades, there is a program called “Hands Are Not For Hitting,” and in the upper elementary grades, it’s “From Bullies to Buddies.” For junior high Faith House has its “Real Men” campaigns and “Girl Talk.” Faith House hopes that it is messages like these that help children understand and deal with issues like violence much better and hopefully also prevent it.
Jones also dispelled the myth that Faith House hates men, pointing to programs like its “Real Men” campaigns as well as its provision of services to men. And while men cannot stay at the shelter, Faith House does help men in ways that it can.
Faith House services an even larger area in Acadiana now with one shelter in Lafayette and outreach offices in its parishes–Lafayette, Evangeline, Acadia, St. Landry and Vermilion, along with Avoyelles and Rapides (which have recently just been added).
It was founded in 1981 by a group of nuns who had a homeless shelter and learned that most of their residents were victims of domestic violence and thus turned their focus to domestic violence.