Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Do They Stay?

Our guest blogger this week is Kerry Oliver, Hope House Board Member.

It’s the BIG DAY in your life and you are marrying the man of your dreams! Your family is all there, you’ve spent more money on the wedding and reception than you planned, but it’s all going to be worth it. You have a few things that are in the back of your mind that are not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams, but you are thinking that will change after you are married.

As the months and years go by, the control of what you are allowed to wear, where you are allowed to go, who you are allowed to talk to, when you can see your family… first it felt like he really cared and really loved you.  But as the look in his eyes became more foreboding and his grip on your arm started to leave bruises, you are thinking this is not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams.

After he hits you for the first time, his tears come, he apologizes, says he didn’t know what came over him and his kindness makes your life together feel better than ever. You feel you have turned the corner into the arms of the man of your dreams.

He hits you again. This time there’s no tears and no apology. He says it’s your fault. Hmmmm? Did you do something different? Is there some rule or boundary you have violated? You know marriage is about give and take, and sharing responsibilities….ok, maybe it was my fault. You say you are sorry, but you are thinking this is not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams.

The fear that keeps you awake at night, praying that you have done nothing wrong that will set him off, is with you constantly. Your job is at risk, you have no friends left to talk with about what you are going through, and your family knows something is wrong but not quite sure what it is because you are distant and embarrassed. You told everyone that this is the man of your dreams.

When you finally realize that the life you are living is not a life at all and that the hitting and abuse is not your fault, you make plans to leave. They are very secret plans, because if he finds out, you may never leave… alive. You stash cash, stash clothes, set up a separate mailing address, and find a new job so he cannot harass you at your employer. You don’t tell your family for fear they won’t understand. You will be alone. You will no longer be with the man of your dreams.

After reading this story or any other similar story, or upon hearing an abuse victim recant her story, you may be asking yourself “why did she stay?” Well, did you stay or leave after your first fight with your spouse? Did your spouse ever throw anything at you? Did your marriage ever go through a tough time when you could have left, but chose to stay and see it through?

It’s hard to admit you made a poor choice in the first place and all the harder to admit you made repeated poor choices, as I did, just to save a marriage. That was a long time ago. My long relationship with Hope House is not as a victim, but as a contributor and Board Member. My plight is to ensure that my children, friends and all the people I can touch understand domestic violence and the small ways it can start and escalate. No one should be a victim, especially to someone they believe they love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 18-24, 2010

This week’s guest blogger is Gretchen Hicks, Volunteer Programs Manager for Hope House.

Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 18-24, 2010. If at no other time, this is the time to show your appreciation to volunteers!
Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless. ~Sherry Anderson
A statement could not be truer than that. Volunteers are priceless. As the Volunteer Programs Manager at Hope House, I have the pleasure of working with volunteers day-in and day-out. Currently we have 250 volunteers, with an average of 70-90 who volunteer each month. With the help of our volunteers, we are able to accomplish so much more. Their assistance equates to Hope House saving approximately $22,000 a month in personnel costs.

The work we do here, empowering our clients to live a life free of abuse, could not be done without the help of our valued volunteers. Volunteers are here for us rain or shine, snow or ice, helping in a multitude of ways. Volunteers are able to work in any of our programs. Here are a few examples of the things volunteers can do:

• “Reading Reaches”, a program where volunteers read to children in shelter

• Special events

• Assisting in shelter

• Assisting in the Court Advocacy program

• Assisting with BridgeSPAN, our hospital-based advocacy program

• Answering the phones at the front desk of each location

• Administrative assistance

• Speakers bureau / display requests

• Assisting at our safe visitation program

• Working with the children in the Early Childhood Center

• Working in the Hope Street Boutique, which is our clothing closet

• Facilities and maintenance work

And it all begins with just an 8-hour volunteer training class. Those interested in working directly with clients receive a more intensive training. Volunteer trainings are held quarterly. The next one is scheduled for June 2010.
If you’re thinking that you have no special skills to offer, you are wrong! Everyone has something to offer. It’s just a matter of reaching inside yourself and letting it be expressed. Once you find a good cause that you support and believe in, all it takes is the will power to take that first step—you’d be amazed how easily you can become a volunteer. There is nothing better than being there supporting someone else with their needs, knowing you’re making a difference. What a rewarding feeling!
Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. ~Author Unknown 
If you’re thinking that you have no special skills to offer, you are wrong! Everyone has something to offer. It’s just a matter of reaching inside yourself and letting it be expressed. Once you find a good cause that you support and believe in, all it takes is the will power to take that first step—you’d be amazed how easily you can become a volunteer. There is nothing better than being there supporting someone else with their needs, knowing you’re making a difference. What a rewarding feeling!
I always wondered why “somebody” didn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody. ~Lily Tomlin
Be that “somebody”. Ask yourself, “Why haven’t I become a Hope House volunteer?” To find out more, check out our website and click on “Ways to Give”, or you may contact me directly at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

April 18th-24th is National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. Started in 1981, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) has brought much needed attention to the victims of crime, their families and the professionals who serve them.

Domestic violence is a crime, as we all know. This week of recognition and support to crime victims is very important to Hope House as a way to honor and recognize the journey of all of those who have been impacted by crime.

This year’s theme—“Crime Victims’ Rights: Fairness. Dignity. Respect”, are themes that we at Hope House work toward every day. We work to ensure that every victim that comes into our services feels they have been treated with fairness, dignity and respect, from us as a service provider.

These are fundamental rights that everyone should have but especially those who have been traumatized and victimized. This week is an opportunity for the nation to reflect on those who have been victimized and work to address disparities in the system to ensure that the victimization doesn’t continue as they begin the process of recovery.

In Eastern Jackson County we are fortunate to work with dedicated and caring professionals such as:

1) Law enforcement, who work to apprehend and charge the perpetrator.
2) The prosecutor, who works to ensure justice through the court process.
3) The health care professional who is working to heal physical injuries.

Each of them have the goal of providing quality, competent services to victims and to work to start the healing process and the road to recovery. It is our priority to put the crime victim’s needs first, to address their needs holistically and to ensure recovery from the victimization.

On our campuses we have visual and daily reminders of the thoughtfulness of others during NCVRW. We have a beautiful water garden where clients can sit, reflect and work toward recovery. That garden started out as a bird bath, but through the work of dedicated individuals and the generosity of many, it now brings beauty to the campus and honors those who have been victims of crime. Every time I see it, I am reminded of the work we do and the commitment and caring of others who made the garden a possibility and made the healing journey one of beauty and peace.

I invite you to take time during this week to reflect on the journey that crime victim’s must make and look for ways to get involved and to help make that journey a bit easier. You can visit our website or for resource guides specific to crime victim’s week visit or

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lethality Assessment Program

I am excited to tell you about a program that Hope House is doing in conjunction with the Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Grandview Police Departments called the Lethality Assessment Program.

The program represents the work of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell of The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. In her 25 years of research Dr. Campbell learned:
  • Only 4% of domestic violence murder victims ever availed themselves of services.
  • In 50% of domestic violence related homicides, officers had previously responded to a call to that home.
  • The re-assault of domestic violence victims in high danger was reduced by 60% if the victim went into shelter. 
With this research data, the Maryland Coalition Against Domestic Violence (MCADV) began the Lethality Assessment Program for First Responders. The MCADV chose five pilot sites to take their project nation wide and the Kansas City area was chosen as one of those pilot sites through a collaborative effort called the Safe Family Coalition.


The LAP project is a two pronged intervention program that consists of a research-based lethality screening tool and an accompanying protocol referral that provides direction for the officer based on the results of the screening process. The project consists of a police department and a domestic violence agency working together.

When police are called to the scene of domestic violence situation they utilize the screening tool. This screening is a series of questions that determines if that victim is at high risk for lethality or being killed based on how the victim answers. This screening gives the officers another tool to use to talk with the victim. They can say to the victim, “I am very concerned for your safety. Research shows that based on the way you answered these questions, there is a high likelihood that you will be killed by your abuser.”


Once the screening is complete, the officer lets the victim know that he/she will be calling Hope House and talking to the hotline operator; the goal being that the victim will talk to the hotline operator as well. The officer will talk with the hotline operator to assist with safety planning and referrals, even if the victim chooses not to get on the phone.

Many of the victims do talk to the hotline operator; 43% have come into services once they have made contact with the shelter. For some of these victims, this conversation is the first time they have ever had contact with us and had the opportunity to learn about the services that are available.


The participating police departments agreed to take part in this five month pilot project (June to October 2009) with no additional funding. All participating police departments chose to continue the program due to the success experienced during the pilot phase.

Of 202 screenings, 146 screened high for lethality (72%). We were told to expect about two calls per week but just in our participating communities we were experiencing approximately one call per day. Kansas City is also participating and they were experiencing approximately two calls per day.

What this says to me is that we are reaching a group of people we were not reaching before. We are offering services to those people who are most at risk of being of killed and are least likely to access services. This program is truly saving lives.

We are so proud of the police departments that continue to participate even with no funding or extra resources. They are committed to ending domestic violence and most importantly, committed to helping the victims find safety, support and hope. To the police departments I say thank you; we could not do this work without you and your efforts.