The local impact of domestic violence organizations

CAMMIE BAGLEY Executive Director & News Editor

With the help of advocacy organizations across the nation, survivors of domestic violence have been given resources to help them get out of abusive relationships and into a better life.

There are both national, state and local organizations that work with battered women. They all provide resources for victims in different ways. Their goal is one in the same, and that is to end domestic violence in this country.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is one of the more prominent names for advocacy organizations in the country. According to their website, their mission is, “to be the voice of victims and survivors. We are the catalyst for changing society to have zero tolerance for domestic violence. We do this by affecting public policy, increasing understanding of the impact of domestic violence and providing programs and education that provide change.”

The NCADV works closely with other national organizations to influence governmental policies that help protect victims. They also sponsor many programs including a cosmetic and reconstructive surgery service for victims, a memorial program for those who have lost their lives due to domestic violence, and educational programs for topics involving reproductive coercion, the risk of HIV/AIDS in a domestic violence situation and financial assistance.

At the state level, Georgia’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence (GCADV) works to “collaborate, advocate, educate and empower.”

According to their website, they are the leading representative of domestic violence advocacy in the state. The GCADV provides services to more local organizations and directly to victims. The GCADV offers training for those who work in domestic violence programs, healthcare providers and first responders. They also provide technical assistance, advocacy for public policy and outreach programs for communities across the state. As a more direct approach, they have a 24-hour hotline, a rapid rehousing project, a fatality review project and are heavily involved in community engagement.

Locally, Circle of Hope is an organization that is licensed by the state of Georgia and is specifically tailored to victims of domestic violence in Habersham, White and Stephens counties. Their mission is to “support, empower and bring hope to those who are affected by domestic violence,” according to Director Suzanne Dow.

The type of assistance that they provide includes a 24-hour hotline, support groups, an emergency shelter and more. Their shelter has been open since 1990 and provides housing, food and clothing to victims who are in danger. The shelter is in an undisclosed location and requires approval to access. According to Dow, an average shelter stay is around 30 days. If the victim needs assistance after 30 days, the organization provides other options for housing assistance.

For those who do not need shelter, Circle of Hope has outreach programs that help victims get protective orders, counseling and financial assistance. The organization also participates in community outreach through a school prevention program in which they visit students as young as Pre-K age all the way to college age adults to educate them about domestic violence. Dow said that one of the main objectives of the organization is to help bring victims through the healing process, which in most cases is done through counseling and support groups. Through these services, they work to provide victims with the education and skills that they need to recognize what a healthy relationship entails.

Dow said that abusive patterns are very hard to break and often times, the cycle can be easily repeated. She believes that the key to breaking the pattern is long term education because when the women learn what a healthy relationship looks like, they can recognize unhealthy patterns in the future and avoid abusive relationships.

Other local advocacy organizations in the north Georgia area include Northeast Georgia Council on Domestic Violence in Hartwell, Gateway House in Gainesville and No One Alone in Dahlonega. All of these places make major differences in the lives of domestic violence survivors.

One local survivor, who must remain anonymous due to matters of safety, worked with Circle of Hope and Freedom Hill Recovery Center to get out of an abusive relationship and get on her feet. She said that without the help of local groups such as these, she wouldn’t be where she is today. “With their help, I’m able to have a steady relationship with my kids now, I’m gaining my parents’ trust back and I have a relationship with God now,” she said. “I actually have hope.”

For more information about resources for victims of domestic violence, visit bit.ly/dayinthelifeseries.