Barbara Van Reed
“Domestic violence is America’s hidden war and the battlefield is in our homes.” Francine Perry paraphrased the quote written by MIchelle Busoletti, and they are words she lives and works by.
New Hope, Inc. has its regional office tucked away on River Court on the Webster-Dudley line, and from there it serves the victims of relationship violence in 27 communities, stretching from Franklin east to Shrewsbury, West Brookfield and back down towards Sturbridge and the towns on the CT and RI borders.
It’s a huge part of south-central Massachusetts and New Hope’s challenge is equally large. Ms. Perry is the organization’s Director of Community Services, which also serves a large section of southeastern MA. She talked with us about New Hope’s challenges.
New Hope serves the victims of relationship violence, mostly women, but men, children, and gay/lesbian people as well.
How do people find New Hope? Most calls come through the domestic and sexual assault 24-hour, toll-free hotline, 1-800-323-HOPE (4673), with no caller ID. Everything is confidential. A wide network of agencies also refers victims: hospitals, doctors, police departments, friends, relatives, and New Hope advocates in the local district courts, including Dudley, Uxbridge and East Brookfield. The Webster office also has a community service advocate.
Many of New Hope’s clients are women caught in an abusive, violent relationship, who need help to get out. The trained and licensed counselors at New Hope evaluate the situation with the victim and together they work out a plan to safely leave the relationship. If children are involved, the counselor will advise the mother on the paperwork, school records, and such, which she needs to gather up for relocating to another town.
Throughout the process, the New Hope counselor’s goal is to provide the emotional, financial, spiritual, and psychological support the client needs for the transition. The cases can be complex. An abuser might be in jail or prison for a period of time, but usually not for the rest of their lives, and so long term plans might be needed.
The region has two shelters, each with space for six families. In the last twelve months, both locations have been completely full with the exception of just one night. The shelters housed 107 adults and 45 kids, and have had to turn people away. With the poor economy, families have been staying longer than just a few days, for months sometimes, said Ms. Perry. Lack of affordable housing and chronic homelessness are major issues.
When do people leave an abusive relationship? When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving, said Ms Perry. It often takes time to get to that point. New Hope provides counseling and support groups for individuals in any stage of a difficult relationship, and can help with crisis intervention.
Prevention is also a key part of New Hope’s goal to reduce, if not eliminate, domestic violence. Ms. Perry notes that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. The majority of teens don’t know what a relationship is supposed to be, she said. They see violence in the home and in the media. They need to learn that violence is not love. Bullying is the first predictor. Adults have to challenge the perpetrators, and teach them respect for self, and then others. Ms. Perry and New Hope will be visiting area schools this month to spread that message.
New Hope’s mission is “Ending domestic and sexual violence in our community.” Funding for the programs comes from government contracts, the United Way, private donations, grants and fund raising. The Webster office welcomes donations of any kind, clothing, food, and gift cards for gas and groceries, to support the families seeking to escape violent relationships.
New Hope’s website is www.new-hope.org.
- Wednesday, 08 February 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor