By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Many domestic-violence victims leave abusive relationships in Hampton Roads each year and become success stories, thanks to free services offered by YWCA Hampton Roads located at 500 E. Plume St., Norfolk.
This means the 114-year-old organization helps numerous women, children, and even men leave relationships that are often marred by verbal abuse, stalking, controlling behavior, violence and threats. Advocates appear in court with domestic violence victims. Abuse victims and their children typically stay up to a month in safe housing and transition to a home. The YWCA also offers short-term and long-term counseling services, as well as financial counseling and internships. It operates a 24/7 CCR Hotline at 757-251-0144.
“Every one of our clients or shelter guests is a success story,” Emily Triolet, public relations and marketing specialist, said in a recent email interview.
“One of the biggest side effects of domestic violence is isolation,” Triolet said. “Each call, walk-in, or referral we receive is a sign that someone is fighting for safety. On average it takes individuals between seven and 10 times before they successfully leave a perpetrator, and we are here each time.”
As the nation observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout October, the YWCA of South Hampton will host several events including an ongoing month-long fundraiser with local coffee shops and breweries called “Brews Not Bruises.”
Triolet said, “Our partners include 1865 Brewery, Big Ugly Brewing Company, Pale Horse Coffee, Reaver Beach Brewing in Norfolk and Three Ships Coffee Roasters. We receive monetary and gift-in-kind donations from these establishments to further our mission!”
On Oct. 23, the Virginia Beach Pearls Foundation will sponsor its 10th annual scholarship fundraiser from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at Chesapeake Conference Center, 700 Conference Dr., Chesapeake.
The foundation serves Virginia Beach and the surrounding Tidewater region by providing higher education scholarships to students in need, and helping students navigate the admission process. Individuals, women and families benefit.
The ongoing “Brews not Bruises” and upcoming Virginia Beach Pearls Foundation events come on the heels of a gender-based violence prevention program that the YWCA held on Oct. 11, at Southside STEM Academy at Campostella for males in grades 6-8. Students learned healthy communication and relationship skills.
Triolet said, “They (were) incredibly receptive and part of the solution.”
The organization also hosts online domestic-violence discussions online. Triolet said, “We have a ‘Reel Talk,’ as part of our ‘Conversations That Matter’ equity initiative. We’ll bring community members in over Zoom to discuss the Netflix show ‘Maid’s’ depiction of interpersonal violence on Oct. 26 from 6-8 p.m.”
To peer inside of a safe-housing site, which aims to transform all domestic-violence victims into success stories, plan to stroll past the free “More Than Shelter” exhibit on display at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, located at 2200 Parks Ave., Virginia Beach.
Eleven artists designed exhibits for the display that runs from Oct. 8-Feb. 5. It is sponsored by YWCA South Hampton Roads through a partnership with the generous support of the Lynn and Rachel Schoenbaum Charitable Fund and the Goode Family Foundation.
Pay close attention to Erin Fostel’s pencil drawing of a room that a shelter guest vacates, Triolet said. Fostel, the artist, actually visited the local YMCA’s domestic shelters and completed a drawing that “aims to show the transitionary state that our shelter guests must live in.”
Triolet said, “We have a close relationship with Virginia MOCA, and when Fostel reached out interested in working with domestic-violence shelters, Virginia MOCA sent her to YWCA SHR! Fostel honors us with the voluntary depiction of what leaving shelter looks like.”
The YWCA of South Hampton Roads provides other services that transform domestic violence victims into success stories including the Norfolk Family Justice Center (NFJC), which provides numerous advocacy services.
Employees at the center will accompany clients to court and provide sexual assault and strangulation evidence, as well as other advocacy and support services.
“Over the past year, we saw a decrease in our number of shelter guests,” Triolet said, reporting a decline that was noted nationwide after domestic violence cases dropped but later spiked during the pandemic when many workers were furloughed, laid off, or told to work from home.
According to an April 4, 2020 USA TODAY report, “Detroit received 769 domestic violence calls over the past two weeks of March, a 9% spike from weeks prior. Tucson, Arizona, police recorded 292 domestic violence incidents, also up 9%. In Santa Rosa, California, which has been under shelter-in-place orders since March 17, city police saw domestic disturbance calls jump from 42 a week to 51.”
USA TODAY continued, “In county jails, arrests on domestic-violence charges stayed relatively steady even as total inmate bookings fell by about half, data shows.”
But shelter visits actually decreased this year at YMCA South Hampton Roads, Triolet said.
“We cannot confirm or deny a correlation with the existence of NFJC services. If anything, NFJC services help increase the number of people in Hampton Roads who have a safe, consistent, support system through YWCA SHR’s shelter and crisis services. We provide community members with support, trauma-informed care, and use the empowerment model which allows them to create a safety plan specific to their needs.”
The organization has helped many people write success stories. For example, one former domestic-violence victim received safe housing, met directly with Norfolk Police detectives and was accompanied to court. She moved into her own home because she received support throughout the journey.
But it is important to point out that the YWCA transforms domestic-abuse victims into success stories because the 114-year-old organization “is part of the community,” Triolet said.
“Not only do we serve victims of violence, but also those interested in supporting them,” she explained. “We encourage volunteers, interns and donors to participate in our mission. YWCA SHR provides a safe space and we need the generous support of the Hampton Roads community to continue doing so.”