This week has felt particularly challenging for those of us who work in the victim services field in Rhode Island. On Sunday, which was Mother’s Day, a 42-year-old East Providence woman was allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend. On Monday night, a Cranston municipal court judge was arrested on charges that he allegedly choked his girlfriend. And these local incidents come on the heels of national news about a high-profile professional boxer with a history of domestic violence charges and the NFL’s questionable priorities when it comes to suspending players who have engaged in domestic assault.
Intimate partner violence is a serious public health issue both locally and throughout the country. An estimated 1 in 4 Rhode Island women will experience abuse at the hands of her partner. We know children who grow up in households witnessing violence are more likely to become perpetrators or victims of abuse.
Fortunately, there are local community resources for victims of abuse. Sojourner House is one of six domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island that provides direct services to individuals and families impacted by abuse. In 2014, we provided 3,094 emergency shelter bed nights, 4,930 transitional housing bed nights, and we answered almost 2,000 crisis phone calls. We also worked to break the cycle of violence with our prevention work, which reached 1,776 students in educational settings.
Sojourner House is currently wrapping up its 100 Campaign, which ends this Friday, May 15. The 100 Campaign directly supports the agency’s transitional housing program, which provides longer-term housing (18 to 24 months) for families who need some additional assistance rebuilding their lives.
With six family apartments and four units available for single women, the program allows survivors of violence to live in their own space and receive supportive services as they get back on their feet. Clients are provided their own housing unit, and residents are able to access support groups, individual counseling, youth programs, HIV testing, immigration advocacy, and job training resources.
The goal of the 100 Campaign is to specifically secure donations of $100 or more from local community members to support this program. If 300 people donated just $100 each, the agency would reach its fundraising goal of $30,000, which would not only maintain the current program but allow for the lease of an additional apartment to house a family of four.
With the end of the Campaign just a couple of short days away, Sojourner House has raised well over $25,000, but we are still seeking community support to make this final push to reach our goal.
The words of a former transitional housing client best sum up the significance of the work that Sojourner House does with this program:
“I felt like my life was about to explode. It’s difficult to leave a home where my kids had their own space and their own privacy… For my children and me, this apartment marked a turning point: I was able to sign a lease as head of household for the first time. My kids finally had a home with space and privacy again. In short, we got our life back. Thank you for putting a set of keys in my hand and trusting me with this opportunity of a new life.”
Join our efforts…become 1 of the 100 Campaign donors!
Vanessa Volz is the Executive Director of Sojourner House. You can find out more about their work and the 100 Campaign at www.sojournerri.org.