what i learned//volunteering

I got a new job! I’ll be working as a Development and Marketing Associate at the same Domestic Violence Shelter that I was volunteering at, and I’m so excited to learn more about the nonprofit business world and be able to impact others with my work. Unfortunately, this means that I’ll no longer be able to volunteer in the shelter, so I wanted to share some things that I learned from the experience.

  • Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse is not something that just happens to “other people”. Statistically, it happens to 1 in 4 women and 1 in 14 men at some point during their lives. It spans socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, and religions. This means that you probably know several women who have experienced it, and quite possibly a few men as well.
  • Domestic Violence (DV) can take on several different forms beyond the stereotypical “beating”. Besides physical, DV can take the form of mental, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual abuse, and stalking.
  • It takes an average of leaving an abuser 7-10 times before the victim leaves for good. Reasons for this include no place to live, no money to live on, no support from family members, a full shelter, judgement from others, ect. It’s not as simple as “why don’t they leave?!”
  • DV is not just a private issue, it’s a cultural problem. If one in four and one in fourteen are the current numbers, that’s 25% of women and 7% of men!
  • DV can happen in teenage relationships as well, and in relationships in which the partners are not married. Be cognizant of your teen’s relationships and talk to them if you are  concerned!

I gained a tremendous amount of respect for the staff at the shelter- what they deal with is emotional and hard! They are some of the toughest people that I know and deal with hard stuff daily for the benefit of victims even when it can be a thankless task. It was sometimes overwhelming to go from the training to interacting with clients weekly– the statistics were changed into humans who had stories and personalities and feelings, and sometimes they would let you know exactly how they were feeling. It was also hard to know that even though the shelter had about 30 rooms, they were almost always full and we had to turn away more people than we accepted because that many people are looking for help. Once I had to tell two women on the phone back to back that we were full and then just sat there feeling helpless.

I also gained respect for the women and men who came through the shelter as clients, it is brave to make the call and decide to make such a drastic change in your life, especially if it involves leaving your partner when you may not have a place to go afterwards or a job to support yourself and possibly your children. It is brave to decide to live in a shelter with other people you don’t know who are also going through something similar.

For further reading, I’d recommend Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bandcroft, who seeks to explain the abuser in realistic and often blunt terms. He debunks common myths and misconceptions and it truly helped me to realize some of my own untrue preconceived notions about DV.

I’m truly excited to start my new job because it focuses on letting people know about the shelter and why what we do is so important!


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