The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome guest blogger Sarah Campbell of the Council on Domestic Abuse.
Earlier this month CODA moved with national trends and announced the location of its emergency shelter. Sarah blogs more about CODA’s services and place in the community.
Tell us a little about CODA and the work you do in the community.
CODA has been serving victims of domestic violence in the Wabash Valley since 1985. We’re now a duel agency and also serve victims of sexual assault. Our emergency shelter has bed-space for 45 individuals, who can remain there as long as they are working with a case manager to successfully make progress towards independence from their abuser. A full-time children’s advocate works with families in shelter and regular support groups are planned for both children and adults. There is a crisis hotline ringing into shelter 24/7. A full-time sexual assault victim’s advocate is always on-call to meet a victim at the hospital to offer immediate and future services. CODA offers an extensive violence prevention and education program, currently set to reach more than 4,000 locals through presentations this year. Our goal is to prevent violence before it happens in our community. One prevention initiative is CODA’s Youth Council, where local youth meet twice a month for conversation and action. Five legal advocates in the Vigo County Courthouse serve victims by assisting them through the criminal justice system, including paperwork completion, safety planning, and explanation of proceedings.
CODA recently announced the formally confidential location of the emergency shelter. Why was this done and what do you think this will do for victims?
Although it was once common practice for domestic violence shelters to keep their location a secret, many organizations have changed these policies in recent years. In fact, more than half of the domestic violence shelters in Indiana disclose their locations to the public, and the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence now recommends full disclosure. There are many reasons for this shift in thinking:
- Keeping a shelter location confidential is difficult. In this age of data sharing, when abusers can easily install tracking apps on victims’ phones, it’s unrealistic to think people can’t find out where shelter is. Attempting to keep the shelter location a secret can also be difficult for children, who may not understand why they cannot say where they are living.
- A secret shelter location implies that the survivor did something wrong and must “hide out,” increasing residents’ feelings of shame and humiliation. Having a public location removes this stigma.
- When the shelter location is confidential, residents who do not have their own transportation must agree that they will not be picked up or dropped off within a 5-block radius of the shelter. If you’ve ever had to walk 5 blocks in the snow with small children in tow, you’ll understand why it would be much easier to be picked up at the front door.
- Fully disclosed shelters have seen NO increase in abusers coming to the shelter.
- With a non-confidential location, we can open up our support groups to non-residential victims. In other shelters, attendance by shelter residents at support groups increased when the non-residents began attending.
- Victims would be able to walk right up to our front door, instead of having to having to meet one of our advocates at some other location in town such as a hospital.
After carefully considering these factors, interviewing staff and residents for their opinions, and evaluating our safety and security protocols, the CODA Board of Directors has voted to share the location of our shelter with the public.
Please understand that, while our shelter location is no longer confidential, our services still are. We will never reveal the identity of any client who stays at our shelter or receives any of our services.
What makes you, the staff and volunteers passionate about your work?
When I became the executive director for the Council on Domestic Abuse four years ago, I was concerned that domestic violence and sexual assault were problems too big for me to tackle. What could I do that could make a difference? Then I started going to trainings on violence prevention. It turns out there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can put and end to the cycle of violence that consumes too many families in our community. In the last two years, we have trained four local bars in bystander intervention so they can help reduce the rates of sexual assault in drinking establishments. CODA advocates have access to train almost 500 inmates in the federal penitentiary on healthy relationships and equity, before they are released into our society each year. We are training men across the Wabash Valley to stand up against domestic violence and sexual assault with our Male Engagement Seminars. Our Youth Council members advocate for teen victims and equity in society. And now, we are providing better services to victims than ever before. With the shelter location going public, all past victims are welcome to return to shelter for extended case management services.
CODA is hosting an informational session at the Chamber. Can you explain?
All local businesses are invited to attend an informational meeting to learn how their $100 donation to CODA can make our community safer. If we gather 100 Businesses Who Care about a future free of violence, we’ll have the funding necessary to continue and expand the projects mentioned previously.
If people are interested in more information how do they get in touch with you or what’s the next step?
Please either call our office at 812-234-3441, go to our website at www.codaterrehaute.org, or email me at email@example.com. Victims in crisis should call our crisis hotline at 1-800-566-CODA, or 812-232-1736.
It’s always nice to get donations of new toys and gifts for adults and children for the holidays. We are also looking for volunteers in the community with something to offer to survivors in a support group or educational setting. Come teach everyone how to cook your favorite meal or complete your favorite craft!