Outreach Coordinator Robbi Anne Richardson, who said she was born and raised in Trigg County, spoke to the Trigg/Lyon Newcomers Club at their monthly meeting last week. She explained that when a woman needs to go to court to file a restraining order on her abusive husband or boyfriend, Sanctuary, Inc. provides a victim advocate. The advocate cannot give legal advice, but she can tell the victim the usual procedures and what to expect.
Also, if a woman is raped and must go to the hospital for an examination, Sanctuary sends a representative to the hospital to be with her and explain any questions about the exam she might have.
When women leave their homes and need a place to stay, Sanctuary is there to help, Richardson said. There is housing in an old renovated hotel for the women and their children and various programs at the crisis center designed to make them feel as comfortable as possible during their stay. After an advocate evaluates the women, they are usually assigned to a support group.
The crisis center has limited space, so Richardson said that Sanctuary tries to limit those they take in to families who are in immediate danger. Sometimes homeless people show up and advocates refer them to the Salvation Army, she said. There are usually between 20 and 30 women in the shelter at any given time, and it is not uncommon to find someone sleeping on her couch on the rare day she makes it into her office, she said.
Many of the victims end up at the crisis center after an advocate is called to the police station. If they come on their own, women can ring the buzzer any time 24 hours a day to be admitted. The first 30 days after a woman has left an abusive relationship is referred to as the “crisis phase.” They are assigned an advocate and they then enter the “supportive phase, in which they work toward meeting specific goals. Richardson said that, depending on the severity of the situation, some victims can end up staying at the crisis center for as long as 18 months at a time. After that comes the “transitional phase,” in which advocates will help victims move into an apartment and try to get their lives back in order.
Of course, this process is far from streamlined. Richardson said Sanctuary has many repeat clients. She said the average victim leaves an abusive relationship seven times before it becomes permanent. Although it pains the advocates to see the victims decide to go back to their husbands and boyfriends, they try not to tell them what decisions to make. They are afraid that if they pressure the women and make them feel ashamed that they might not come back the next time they are in trouble.
There is always something happening at the crisis center throughout the year. There are quite a few events meant to help the children comfortable, such as the haunted house for the kids at Halloween, birthday celebrations and a Music Together Night each week. Richardson said the children can be heard all over the building loudly singing on those nights.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.