Our first regular meeting of the fall season on August 27 was anything by regular. We convened at Family Shelter Service's "women's shelter" tucked away on a private street in Downers Grove. We felt privileged to receive the grand tour, as very few people or organizations are allowed behind the scenes. Photos were not allowed in the living areas, but we saw some smiling women and children at play who looked relaxed and happy in this sunny and safe haven. Staff members gave us more information on the shelter and expressed their gratitude for the kitchens that are supplied to women in transition through our Operation New Start Program.
One staff member said,
"The people we give kitchens to start crying. Most never had brand new things. It’s so important to have a fresh start. Everything is all ready to go - they just take it with them and start their new life. It's so incredible to see. That’s the part you don’t get to experience but I do because of all your hard work. It’s so amazing that you’re able to provide that new start for so many families."
We also heard a compelling talk by Judie Caribeaux, who has been Executive Director for 10 months. Her personal story is worth repeating.
"I want to thank you for your support on a very personal level. It truly means so much to our clients. For the first time in many instances, they really know that someone else cares for them and it’s shocking. It still shocks me but it's really true. To understand that complete strangers want to form a network of support around women is absolutely mind blowing for a lot of our clients. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart I am truly grateful.
I have two children, a son 18 and a daughter 21.
I am married 13 years to a wonderful man. The math doesn’t make sense because 16 years ago I left an abusive marriage. I’m telling you that, not for pity, but to demonstrate that the image of victims of domestic violence don’t look like me. They don’t look like somebody middle class and highly educated. I have two graduate degrees, middle income and lived in Naperville.
One in four women in DuPage County are victims of domestic violence- that equates to 120,000 women who could be our clients. We need to grow to meet that capacity.
Domestic violence is about power and control – very subtle and insidious. My husband was very charming to everyone else but the psychological web he would create at home was very complex and very cunning and all about maintaining control in the home. Psychological and emotional abuse - twisting words in ways that were very manipulative and controlling would absolve him of all of the responsibility and transfer all that to me.
My son was 2 and my daughter was 6 when I left. It was a difficult decision for me to come to because I put the entirety of our family above my own safety. It took me a long time to come to terms and understand that what I was experiencing was in fact an abusive relationship. Lethality increases by 70 percent as women try to leave the relationship. Ultimate control is to kill someone. But we can get control back if we start talking about it. I looked back at journals as a survivor, at the words of the victim. Before I filed for divorce, I would say my husband wouldn’t agree with me. After I filed, I said I was afraid of my husband, How much I anguished over the impact this would have on my kids. Me breaking up the family. My choice to exit the relationship and what impact it would have on my children.
I do remember the first time leaving the marital home and going to an apartment and having two doors that locked between me and my abuser. The front door to the apartment complex and my apartment door. The first night in years I could sleep. That feeling safe for the first time - still I can feel that in this moment and this time. Being about to sleep knowing I was really truly safe, knowing my kids were safe.
In regards to the kitchen, I remember really working hard creating this little apartment into a home and it's those kinds of things. It’s the dishes. it’s the silverware. Being able to set the table and say prayers around the table as a family those were the rituals that really helped them heal that made the difference. We can’t have those rituals without the kitchen boxes. We can’t have the rituals without the place we’ve created as home. I can’t thank you enough for being part of our network. I was lucky. There are women who don’t have that kind of network until they come here. Everybody in this room is part of that network so thank you very much for your time and support.