IN THE BATTLE AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, PREVENTION IS THE KEY.

Turning Point

Domestic Violence is an epidemic in our society.

One in four women in the U.S report being a victim of intimate partner abuse at some point in her lifetime. That is more than have contracted all forms of cancer, heart disease, or any other serious illness. Yet, when you hear about the major reasons for emergency room visits, hospital stays, and even death, domestic violence is rarely mentioned.

Yes, domestic violence is an epidemic.

It impacts everyone. It is a primary cause of homelessness. It costs employers billions (with a b) of dollars in lost wages. And domestic calls are listed by more than 75% of police officers as “most dangerous” situations in their jobs. Domestic violence impacts men and women, children, adults, and seniors, the rich, poor, and middle class, and does not spare anyone due to race, creed, or color.

Turning Point of Lehigh Valley has been working toward ending the epidemic of domestic violence in our community and offering victims emergency shelter and support services for almost 35 years. During that time, we have provided thousands and thousands of domestic violence victims in the Lehigh Valley with a temporary, safe place to stay, individual and group counseling, court advocacy services, and case management. All of our services are confidential and free for anyone who needs them.

We know we’re making a difference. Last year, 82% of our shelter clients surveyed indicated they left our safe house to go to a new living situation, free from their abusers. Often when we are in the community, a former client will tell us how we helped her years earlier, and that she has created a peaceful and happy life for herself and her family. We receive donations and letters of support from former clients often. So….we’ve been part of the fabric of our community for 35 years, and we know we’re helping thousands of people, then why are the numbers of people in our community seeking services not decreasing?

Because domestic violence is an epidemic.

In 2011, Turning Point’s Board and Staff put together a comprehensive organizational strategic plan. We determined that while continuing to support all of our current programs, much of our time and resources would be focused on increasing our prevention initiatives. Our mission mandates us to help and empower current victims of domestic abuse, but also to work on decreasing the number of domestic violence incidents in the Lehigh Valley. Our ultimate goal is to make our agency obsolete.

We have generated a good deal of excitement around our comprehensive prevention initiative, based on the acknowledgment that seeking shelter is a symptom, not a solution. Recognizing that there is a correlation between academic success, financial self-sufficiency, and the likelihood of experiencing partner abuse, we have introduced a parent/child reading program in our safe house. Research indicates that children whose parents read to them from birth to first-grade demonstrate better academic achievement, including increased potential for finishing school. We are partnering with the Fountain Hill Elementary School to develop our program, which provides 30 minutes at the end of every day for children and their moms to read to each other. Each child will have access to a selection of books to keep during their stay, with the option of taking favorite books with them when they leave. Since the reading program began in March, we have distributed 200 new and gently used books to our children residing in the safe house to take with them as they move into their new living situation.

We have introduced a financial/budgeting curriculum to assist shelter clients, counseling clients, and those living with abuse to learn how to manage a budget, identify needed/desired job training, and become aware of the correlation between economic sufficiency, stable housing, and decreased abusive living situations. We are administering this 10-week program at least three times annually.

Recognizing the long-term impact of trauma on clients’ health, with subsequent implications for self-care, job retention, and medical access for their children, we are pursuing options for providing health screenings and referrals to our safe house residents. We have met with St. Luke’s University Hospital to explore partnership opportunities for this program, and will be having discussions with other local healthcare organizations as well.

We are out in the community every day, creating discussion and discourse around the topic of domestic violence. Our Education Systems Advocate visits school throughout the Lehigh Valley, teaching youth about creating healthy relationships and identifying the red flags of an abusive one. Our Medical Systems Advocate trains healthcare workers on spotting the signs of domestic violence when working with patients, and more importantly, what to do when you have a patient who is a victim. We speak at church gatherings, business owners’ luncheons, community events, and colleges, all with the idea that knowledge is power, and that by keeping people talking about it, perhaps we can help them identify a potential abusive situation early, or have the courage to leave one.

Domestic Violence is an epidemic.

At Turning Point we fight this epidemic every day, working diligently toward a day when intimate partners always treat each other with respect and dignity.