Our intern Sara continues to blog about her experiences and responses while going through WEAVE’s 70 hour Peer Counselor Training program.
The topics that we are discussing are getting heavier at this point; week 2 ended with us learning about Mandated Reporting and what it means to be a mandated reporter. I have previously
worked in a setting where I was a mandated reporter and the extent of the training that I received was a single sheet of paper indicating that I was aware that I was a mandated reporter and that I must report any suspected abuse of a child. I was never instructed on how to report or what suspected child abuse could look like. WEAVE offers extensive training on what it means to be a mandated reporter, and I actually feel more confident now that if I were to run across a situation where I suspect child abuse in any future position, I now know what my responsibilities are.
Week 3 we learned about all the different Domestic Violence services that WEAVE offers to survivors. WEAVE offers not only the 24 hour Support & Information Line, but also a three times a week walk in triage where survivors can undergo a safety assessment and then get referrals to other WEAVE services as well as other services within the community that may be beneficial. Beginning this week as well, there is now a weekly walk-in Legal Triage where survivors can gain access to legal assistance with items such as divorce, restraining orders and child custody. What a great asset to survivors in these situations. More often than not when we are faced with these scary life events we feel frozen in fear, but not only in fear of our abuser but also in fear of uncertainty. To have the ability to get assistance in assessing our legal concerns is such a great tool to help remove some of the fear around uncertainty and get help in how to proceed.
Fear can be an issue surrounding many aspects as a survivor. Another item that can create fear is Law Enforcement, how they will respond and how they will treat you in what could be
your greatest moment of need. I know for many people, we are afraid that we will not be believed or even blamed for what happened, and worrying about whose side the law will be on can create enough doubt that we might not reach out to law enforcement when we really need to. I met two officers from Sacramento City Police this week that truly gave me hope for the future in regards to law enforcement and how they view domestic violence, though. These two officers were passionate about putting an end to domestic violence, were aware of many of the fears survivors face when they reach out for help and were truly dedicated to putting an end to domestic violence in Sacramento. These two gentleman were such a breath of fresh air, and it gives me such hope that these men are in positions to influence greater change within the police force as a whole; I truly think that in the future we can get closer to bringing an end to domestic violence.
Another very important piece that we learned about this week was the different populations that WEAVE serves. When we think domestic violence, it is easy to become pigeonholed and think that survivors are all female. This is just not the case; men can just as easily be victims of domestic violence. After learning more about male victims, I actually think that in general men have greater obstacles to overcome as far as being accepted as victims. Not only do men have the stigma of being the stronger gender to overcome, but if a woman hits or abuses a man in other ways and he were to call the police, if there is no overwhelming physical evidence I can see police officers just not believing what the man is saying happened as the truth. This can make it that much harder for a male victim to access services, because if the police don’t believe them they would doubt that others would believe him as well. This would be a sad and scary realization for a survivor to have. It should not be that size or gender comes in to play when needing help escaping a violent environment, but in many cases it is.
We also heard from a panel of domestic violence survivors this week, which I was really afraid would be hard for me to do. However, I felt very strong while listening to their stories and even managed to ask a couple of questions once they were done telling their stories. However, when another classmate that I have been getting to know over these past three weeks decided to share her personal experience with domestic violence, it reduced me to tears. Her story impacted me so heavily that I had to sit in my car for about ten minutes and compose myself prior to driving home. It was a tough way to end a Saturday, but it gave me peace to know that each of us are in better places now, and are moving on from the pain that was once such a big part of our lives. We just have to remember to stay positive and focused on moving forward.