CUMMING, Ga. — October is Domestic Violence month, and Forsyth County Family Haven Executive Director Amy Barfield says the organization is sponsoring initiatives to raise awareness on the issue.
“Family Haven serves as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and their families through outreach services, shelter services and crisis line,” Barfield said. “We help with victim advocacy as well as counseling services here in the community.”
The organization also operates a shelter for women and their children.
New this year is Shine the Light on Domestic Violence, a partnership with the City of Cumming where the city’s clock tower is bathed in purple light through October.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbelow said. “Anything that can bring awareness to a cause is the right thing to do.”
Family Haven is also planning its annual Purple Purpose luncheon for Oct. 23 at the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta. The event, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., serves as a major fundraiser for the organization’s services. The event will include a speaker and a silent auction of high-end purses to help provide services for the Family Haven shelter.
Family Haven will also be participating in additional events throughout the month to increase awareness of domestic violence.
One focus this month will be education.
“We are currently in 11 schools in Forsyth County in eighth and ninth grade health classes, where we talk about what healthy dating relationships look like,” the Macon native said.
Georgia is No. 1 in teen dating violence in the country, according to Barfield who stresses the importance of educating children as to what a healthy relationship looks like so the cycle of violence does not continue.
“Some of that is just making them aware that being texted 500 times in an hour does not mean he or she loves you,” she said. “Having to tell someone who you’re sitting with at lunch or where you are at every minute of every day, you owe that to nobody but your parents.”
Providing children with the ability to identify types of abuse and the red flags associated with them can alert them to an unhealthy relationship, Barfield said.
“It’s empowering children to advocate for themselves by reaching out to a trusted adult,” she said.
Statistics from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline suggest that a person will return to an abusive relationship seven times before leaving for good.
When it comes to the question of “why” Barfield became reflective.
“Everybody’s situation is different and everybody has a ‘why,’” she explained. “I thought long and hard about what that “why” might look like and what those challenges are. I can tell you that children are a big driver of that ‘why.’”
In some cases, it may be hard to find a shelter that can accommodate a woman and her children, Barfield said. Pets, too, can be a reason, but there are places that will take in pets, such as Ahimsa House.
“Their ‘why’ may be an issue of not knowing there are options, so that’s one of the reasons we have to create the awareness here in the community,” she said. “This service is available to help victims come in and get a chance to breathe and see how they’re going to move forward. I understand that this won’t be the last stop for everyone who comes in on their seven-time journey to leave the relationship, but my hope is that we’ll provide the resources to provide tools in their toolbox so they can build a life free of violence whether it’s this time that they leave or the next.”
It is always in need of shelter supplies which are those things someone would use daily at home, “just a whole lot more of it”. These items include toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent. Women and their children can stay up to 90 days.
“It’s a traumatic event for the children whether they’re two years old or 16 years old. We try to accommodate and make life as bearable as possible while they’re here. Life as they knew it has changed. We recognize they’re leaving friends and they can’t tell anybody where they are. They’re in a strange place with strange people. We work really hard to support those children. It’s about the whole family not just the victim.”
And victims can be male, too.
“They under report as much as females,” according to Barfield.
Should a male come in for shelter, Family Haven will try to find an appropriate shelter or put him up in a hotel.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.