GUEST COMMENTARY: Help provide resources for battered women

2013-04-24T22:45:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Help provide resources for battered womenBy Kelly Vates
April 24, 2013 10:45 pm  • 

Susan’s husband once threw her into a wall. Another time he pounded on (and dented) the roof of their car while she locked herself in the vehicle for her safety. On countless other occasions he broke phones, computers and other objects. He emotionally and mentally abused and intimidated her virtually every day.

She came to Fair Haven Center for Women three years ago. We provided the therapy and support she needed, and we helped her formulate an exit plan. She left weeks later — her family’s finances in order and her children’s safety intact.

Today, she is weeks away from receiving her associate’s degree. She’s in a solid loving relationship, and she has traveled the country as a family with her children and boyfriend. In two years, she will receive her undergraduate degree.

She is a Fair Haven success story, but she is far from “whole” again.

Given the proper support by friends and loved ones, Susan was able to move forward, but she still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s triggered, for example, when someone knocks on her front door of all things. She still receives regular therapy — individual and group treatment — to cope with her PTSD and other issues that linger from her abuse.

People do not like to discuss domestic violence. Although one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in their lives, it is perceived to be a “behind closed doors" issue, one in which people are uncomfortable taking sides. It’s usually treated on a “he said, she said” basis.

Susan is not her real name. We had to change her name so her children wouldn’t be subject to their father’s wrath and temper if he knew his abuse was being discussed in public. Also, other parents would not want their children to associate with hers if the truth were revealed. Children also are constantly victimized even if they are never physically struck themselves.

The discomfort people feel in dealing personally with the issues of domestic and sexual violence makes our work even more important. Victims suffer further when family members choose to ignore the situation, when the courts force them to face their abusers in a setting ripe for conflict, and when the community treats their problem as a private issue.

Fair Haven must work even harder to overcome these challenges in order to provide the necessary resources, support and programs for these women to move forward, to live new, healthy and positive lives.

Leaving an abusive relationship is not success for these women. Many, if not most, return several times to the relationship. Success is facing the situation, being self-aware and strong enough to grow, to take a step forward (and then another) and to find a new life despite the whispers, doubts, and the silence.

Fair Haven Center for Women is holding its largest annual fundraising event, the 10th annual Walk in the Park, on Saturday morning in Wicker Park, Highland. Friends of Fair Haven, as well as brave clients, are raising money for their walk. In addition several local merchants are donating goods for auctions and raffles to raise additional funds. If you can join us, it begins at 9:30 a.m. We’d love to see you.

You can also donate at or visit for more information.

Perhaps the issue makes you uncomfortable, which is understandable. But women like Susan need your support. If you can assist with a donation, it makes our job so much easier. Please help these women move forward and give what you can.

Kelly Vates is president and executive director of The Fair Haven Center for Women in Highland. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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