Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hope for the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of year for most people and that includes those of us at HH. Often people ask if it is depressing at this time of year to do this work. My response is an overwhelming NO. This time of year is inspiring and uplifting as we see people bursting in their desire to help and the spirit of the holidays shining through.

The holidays are a time for our clients to reconnect with old traditions or to create new ones for their new lives. We are fortunate to have the generous support of the community and to be able to offer our “Holiday Stores” at each of our locations.

This store atmosphere allows clients to participate in the holidays by “shopping” for gifts for their children, and the children for their mothers. The stores are stocked full of new gift items for each to choose that special gift for their loved ones.

We have volunteers who stock the shelves and help the moms and children do their shopping. Then they wrap the special gifts that are chosen. Office, church and school groups do food drives so we can provide food baskets for that special meal for the holiday for those clients who are not staying in shelter.

We are fortunate to be able to help our clients enjoy the holidays and have this time of year be extra special despite the challenges they are facing. Thank you to all of our supporters that allow us to offer this special gift to our clients and to share the spirits of the holidays.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Power and Control

Throughout my years at Hope House I am continually asked what is domestic violence and why does it happen. The answer is simple yet very complex at the same time. It can be so hard to understand how someone who says they love another person can do such harm to them. It goes against our understanding of what is supposed to be and what we want our families to be.

So what is domestic violence? It is a pattern of coercive behavior used to establish power and control over an intimate partner. One person in the relationship uses tactics of control over his partner in order to maintain power over the partner. Those control tactics can take many forms. The most commonly known form is physical abuse.

Other forms of control include:

1) emotional abuse (name calling, constant put downs)

2) sexual abuse

3) using the children (threaten to take the children away)

4) threats of death or threats of violence to family members or pets

5) economic abuse (not allowing her to work or getting her fired due to disturbances at work)

6) stalking

Future entries will go into these methods in more detail.

Domestic violence happens in marriages, dating relationships, and with people who are living together. It affects young and old. It crosses all races, ethnicities and socio-economic levels. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

It can be happening to someone in your workplace or to your best friend. With 1 out of 4 women being a victim at some point in their lives, the likelihood of you knowing someone who is or has been a victim is very high.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, please make sure they are aware of the resources available to them. Give them our 24 hour hotline number: 816-461-HOPE (4673) so they can access our services and get the support they need to live their lives free of abuse.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Twilight Saga - Is It Really "Just" a Book/Movie?

This blog is guest-written by Hope House staff members Lee Marlin (Director of Marketing) and Diane Marty (Vice President of Development). The topic was suggested by more than one of their friends and associates. As neither had yet read the book Twilight or seen the movie, guess what they did over Thanksgiving break? Below are their musings following the read-and-blog exercise. We – and especially Lee & Diane – would welcome your thoughts and feedback.

The Twilight Saga series of books and movies have taken the world by storm. The latest movie (New Moon) had the third highest opening weekend box office ever. Aimed squarely at teen girls, this series tells the tale of a high school girl (Bella) who falls in love with a vampire (Edward).

Blogs and newspaper articles (see, for instance, have been hot in the last two weeks discussing the unhealthy nature of Edward and Bella’s relationship.

Consider, as many blogs are pointing out, that Edward “[is] there every time she turns around (stalking), and constantly tells her where to go and what to do (controlling)”. Further, both Edward and Bella are poignantly aware that Bella is in constant danger that he might kill her at any moment.

One blog went through 15 Red Flags of Domestic Violence and answered “yes” to all of them in regards to Edward and Bella’s relationship. But Twilight fans responded with “Get real… he’s a vampire! It’s just a book! It’s just a movie!”

But when fiction becomes phenomenon is it really “just a book” or “just a movie” to an impressionable adolescent audience? That’s the real question…and may pose the real danger.

It’s not our position in sharing these thoughts that anyone should be dissuaded from reading the books or watching the movies. But when potentially dangerous behaviors become pop culture phenomena, let’s use it as a teachable moment.

Discuss the behaviors with friends and children reading the books or seeing the movies. Look into the red flags of an abusive relationship. ( Talk with your teens (boys and girls) and your friends about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in a relationship. Let them know that being in love shouldn’t mean being in danger.

A great online resource is This website has a section geared toward parents and another aimed at teens. They also have a peer-to-peer live chat where your teen can log on to ask questions if they’re reluctant to call a hotline.

If you are someone – or know someone – in a dangerous or potentially dangerous relationship, please call the Hope House hotline at 816-461-HOPE (4673).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Doesn't She Leave, Part II

Last week, we were discussing the question that I’m asked daily, “Why doesn’t she leave?”

You learned that the three reasons a woman stays in an abusive relationship are fear, stalking and economics. If you missed that blog entry, look for “Blog Archive” on the right side of the page and click on “Why Doesn’t She Leave, Part I” to get more background information on this topic.

This week we’ll discuss three more reasons a woman will stay in a dangerous relationship.

Reason #4 - Children

Children can often be the trigger that enables a woman to leave the relationship, but they can also be the reason they stay. Women will stay to protect their children.

Abusers will threaten to take the children from them through the court systems with threats such as, “I will call the state and report you as a neglectful mother” or “I will tell them you use drugs.” Or they may threaten to kidnap the children and never let her see them again.

The women know that the threats are real. When faced with the possibility of never seeing your children again, the answer is simple: you stay.

Reason #5 - Emotions

Women stay because of feelings of guilt, shame and a host of other emotions. They may feel guilty that something bad could happen to him because he has been arrested, or he might lose his job or his status in the community. She may feel the abuse is her fault, and thinks if she would have done something differently, he wouldn’t have lost control.

It is very common for an abuser to threaten suicide when they feel that their partner is thinking of leaving, as a way to keep them in the relationship and in their control.

Reason #6 – Love

The reason that seems to be the most difficult for people to grasp is that the women are in love with their partner. Being in love with their partner doesn’t mean they are in love with the abuse. Battered women do not thrive on being hurt.

Abusive relationships can have periods where there is no abuse, also known as the “Honeymoon Period”. This is the time when the woman can see the person that she fell in love with; the one that doesn’t hurt her with his words and actions, but shows her kindness, sorrow and regret for previous actions.

She desperately wants to believe that this change is for real and will last. She wants it to be the relationship that she had always hoped it would be. So she stays to give it another chance, to believe that her dreams can come true.

So why don’t women leave? My answer is this: they do. If they haven’t left yet, then there are reasons that are valid and need to be supported and understood.

My challenge to you is this: rather than asking “why doesn’t she leave?” ask yourself, “what can I do to support her so that she can leave safely? What can I do to make sure that he is held accountable for his actions so she is not put in the position of having to make that decision in the first place?”

Thank you for reading my blog and for your comments and questions. I look forward to our continued dialogue.