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Safe At Home to launch support group

From left, Safe At Home, Inc. Executive Director Katie Rowe and victim advocate Shelby Hall display signs promoting their organization which helpspeople who have experienced domestic violence. A free, weekly support groupkicks off at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in New Castle.

By DONNA CRONK - dcronk@thecouriertimes.com

Henry County’s domestic violence prevention, awareness and advocacy program, Safe At Home, Inc. has a mission, says executive director Katie Rowe, “to strive to eliminate family violence through education, prevention and intervention.”

Along with a 24/7 local crisis hotline for those experiencing domestic violence (765-518-4120), the organization is reaching into the community in a new way starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 21. It will be the first meeting during Rowe’s leadership that they have offered a community support group.

This meeting is for women only, to include any woman who has experienced domestic violence, or those who aren’t sure if they have.

The meetings are free, closed and confidential, and will take place 5-6 p.m. each Thursday in the organization’s conference room across the hall from its office on the Henry County courthouse’s lower level on the west side.

While it is helpful for planning purposes if women register to attend (call the number above), it is not required.

At present, older children cannot attend but if the need is there, a volunteer will be recruited to watch them for the hour. Small children too young to process the discussion are welcome to attend and play in a nearby play area. 

Rowe says she wants those attending to feel it is their meeting, and for them to have time to share and find support, as well as a time during each meeting for the facilitators to share educational and informative information pertaining to domestic abuse.

One example is that Rowe wants to help victims and survivors recognize red flags in relationships “so they can get away before it ever begins.”

Examples of those red flags in another person include: abusing alcohol or drugs, a quick temper, overreacting over small problems, jealousy, strong traditional ideas about roles in a relationship, animal cruelty, extreme highs or lows, expecting a person to follow orders and become angry if they don’t, expecting a person to anticipate another’s desires.

“We want to help women gain a better understanding that they are not to blame,” says Rowe, and also to guide them in participation in self-care such as encouraging them to eat three meals a day, take a walk, read a book and do things others might take for granted.

She says that this kind of basic self-care “can make a huge difference in recovering from being in a domestic violence situation.”

Rowe adds, “We want to form stronger support systems for survivors of abuse.”

She said society has a stigma against domestic violence and she wants to encourage victims, as well as witnesses, to come forward. Rowe said there’s an uncredited quote she saw somewhere and loves which says, “We all need to take a stand. It needs to be more shameful to be an abuser than to be a victim.” 

The director hopes the group will give women courage and strength that they don’t need to be treated the way they are and that they can leave.

Shelby Hall is a victim advocate with Safe At Home. She is helping Rowe facilitate the support group. “I want to reach out to all my clients,” she says, adding that there has been a big interest in the group and she’s “excited to get the word out and reach out to even more.”

Figures nationally and locally are the same, Rowe says, in that one in three women and one in four men are victims of abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Rowe lists a variety of reasons that victims stay in the relationship including fear of being alone, of the unknown, not being believed, children are involved, finances and embarrassment.

Rowe says Safe At Home served 313 clients in 2018. 

The two say that domestic violence crosses socio-economic lines.

Says Hall, “You hear people say they ‘never thought I’d be in this position.’”