Friday, February 22, 2013

Marti Hill

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting a very courageous, warm and inviting woman. Joyce Layman Blackburn introduced me to Marti Hill so I could hear her story and offer resources for their joint project the Living Proof website.

Marti is an amazing woman. She has survived so much and has become a pioneer and advocate for those who are experiencing trauma, pain and loss. Marti’s story is not one of domestic violence, but she has so much to say that can impact those who are experiencing domestic violence. Her desire is to help everyone and she realized that she couldn’t do it alone, so she set about gathering people around her who could help. She had a dream to use her trauma and victimization and turn it into something positive that would help inspire others and promote healing.

Marti was viciously attacked on September 8, 2010 by Brian Pennington. Brian had done home repair work for Marti and Marti’s mother. Early one morning, Brian drove to Marti’s house on the pretense of showing her some more work that he found still needed to be done on her house. Instead, he viciously attacked her and left her for dead in the basement of her home.

It is a miracle that Marti is alive. Her injuries were so severe that, if it hadn’t been for her caring co-workers who became concerned when she didn’t show for work and called for a wellness check, Marti most likely would not be alive today. Marti has embraced this miracle and is committed to creating something positive out of a horrific situation. I applaud Marti for her courage, her commitment to helping others and her willingness to turn tragedy into hope.

Marti’s story was highlighted on CBS 48 Hours on February 2, 2013. She has much to offer to those who are in need or who want to be inspired by her story of survival. To learn more about Marti’s story and who she is, visit her website I know you will be as impressed with Marti as I am.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Year In Review

We’re putting the final touches on our annual report for Fiscal Year 2012. It can be so rewarding to look back at the year and all of the great things we were able to accomplish in a twelve month period.

In terms of numbers, we continue to see the need for services grow. We experienced greater lengths of stay in shelter and provided more bednights than the previous year. Resources in the community continue to be stretched which, in turn, makes referrals more difficult. Case managers are finding the need to be more creative in how they help their clients reach their goals. We saw continued growth in our outreach services, both in the numbers served and those waiting for available services.

As an agency, we spent the year reviewing our delivery of services, identifying needs and gaps, and adjusting our programming to better fit the needs of those we served. We were very excited to continue our work with our Cultural Competency initiative and added a new component to our work.

We were very fortunate to receive a grant, along with two other agencies, from the Jackson County Mental Health Levy Fund to implement a Trauma Informed Care training curriculum for all staff of the agency—not just the direct service staff. We are very committed to providing trauma informed services and recognize that trauma is an integral part of the history of all our clients.

To have all staff trained in how trauma impacts us as individuals, and how to work with people who have been impacted by trauma in an informed and caring way, is crucial to our work. We have begun the process of training all staff in how to provide trauma informed services and have a plan to train all new staff as they join our work.

We also created a training plan that includes requirements for on-going annual training in the areas of cultural competency, trauma and domestic violence. This will allow us to continue to grow as service providers and keep the needs of our clients at the fore front, allowing us to be informed and intentional in our work.

I am excited about what we’ve accomplished and what we’re working on for this and upcoming years. Growth and continued learning are so important. We have a commitment to our clients and will work to improve our service delivery so their needs continue to be met.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

It's already February! Hard to believe how fast time has gone. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It is so crucial to bring continued awareness to the issue of teen dating violence. If we don't address it when people are young, we will never fully break the continued cycle.

Shockingly, 1 in 3 teens will experience violence in their dating relationship. Estimates are that nearly 1.5 million high schools students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner! What's even more shocking is that 2/3 of them will not reveal the abuse to a trusted adult. That means there are many young adults carrying around with them a very tragic and very dangerous secret.

Teen dating violence can have long lasting effects and very serious ramifications. It can put a teen at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide. That's compared to 12.5% of non abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys. Those numbers are frightening.

What can be done? Parents can get involved. Talk to your teens about who they are dating and what is going on in the relationship. Be aware of the signs of an abusive relationship and have open communication with your teens so that it is safe for them to talk about what is going on. Also, download the iPhone app “Love is not Abuse”. There is a wealth of information to learn about  the signs, how to talk to teens, what to do, support groups etc. It's important to be informed and to take action.

If you're not a parent of a teen, it's still important to take notice. Most likely you know of a teen somewhere or will encounter one at some point in the future. It's important that we all take notice and work to stop the violence.

For more information visit the Hope House website: or visit If you're in a teen violent relationship there is help. Call the Teen Dating Violence hotline 1-866-331-9474 or the Hope House hotline 816-461-HOPE. You don't have to experience this alone.