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The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Local outreach centers support abuse survivors

By Stephanie Ball
Staff Writer

Inside the Genesis Women’s Outreach Center a woman buries her face behind a newspaper, occasionally glancing around the room and at her watch, never meeting eyes with the other victims. In the quiet waiting room a fish tank gurgles and blows bubbles occasionally breaking the silence.

Women come from all over the Metroplex to centers like Genesis for shelter, free counseling and protection from abuse.

According to the Genesis Women’s Shelter, one in four women suffers from domestic abuse in verbal, physical or mental form. In an effort to help prevent violence against women, the Genesis Outreach Center and Brookhaven College Counseling and Health Center offer services to women in need.

Lara Gaither, Genesis’s director of community outreach, has been an advocate for the shelter for seven years. She said she hopes women will start to recognize when they need help by observing the warning signs. “The women may start out walking on eggshells and then the abuse increases in severity,” Gaither said. “The women may be in different stages when they come here but they have decided they are leaving, and they are done.”

Gaither said a common misconception is that abuse only affects low-income women or people who are not married, but all women are at risk and the numbers remain consistent from year to year.

Teenage and student violence is on the rise with one in three teenagers being abused, according to the Genesis Women’s Shelter. Brookhaven College Health Center nurse, Mildred Kelley, works with abused students, and she said there is a larger number of students abused than most would think. She works with police and shelters to help students start the healing process.

“When I get a case, I refer the student to community shelters and sometimes I feel more like a social worker because of all the cases we receive,” Kelley said.

Kelley recommends students to Genesis in Dallas and The Family Place Metrocrest Outreach in Carrollton. The Family Place has served the area for 33 years and offers special programs for children.

Genesis has been serving the community for 26 years and offers crisis counseling in English and Spanish, shelter, schooling for children, safety plans, legal services and a 24-hour hotline.

“We have 600 women in our shelter and 600 in counseling, and all of this is 100 percent free,” Gaither said. “While they are with us we hold their hand. We want them to be successful.”

The Brookhaven Counseling and Health Center supports students who need help taking the first step. Kelley has an array of domestic violence brochures and shelter information in the Health Center.

Brookhaven counselor Shirley Walker provides free short-term counseling interventions for students and referrals to outside agencies. “Students should seek immediate assistance and leave the relationship and know that no one deserves to be abused,” Walker said.

Genesis describes unhealthy relationships as the partner embarrassing, scaring, controlling, destroying property, hitting or forcing sex.

With nearly 50 percent of women knowing someone who is abused, the most crucial thing friends and family can do is believe her, Gaither said.

“It is easy for us to be naïve, but this is a cycle and women need to educate themselves,” Gaither said.

Knowledge about domestic violence helps people recognize abuse, understand the need to seek help, and help others who may be experiencing abuse, Walker said.

The Brookhaven College Police Department will be collecting toys for The Family Place through Dec. 16 in the S Building, Police Department and Early College High School.

The Family Place’s website lists gloves, hats and shoes for battered children as things they are in constant need of. The Family Place and Genesis have thrift stores that accept donations all year.

“Everyone has a different story and background,” Gaither said. Genesis Outreach wants to be smarter than the abuser with a safety plan “because she’s worth it.”

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