Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles by guest writer Christopher Yingling, marketing intern at The Beaman Home. The series is intended to shed light on the issue of domestic violence in our community.
When it comes to domestic violence, victims are looking for any connection to receive support in their extremely sensitive, and many times dangerous, situation. While some find comfort confiding in family members or close friends, many don’t have a person to reach out to for assistance, help and advice.
April Slone, coordinator of the DoVE Outreach Program for the Beaman Home, contributes to the community of domestic violence victims by being that advocate. She is a professional mediator between a victim of domestic violence and the help she or he is seeking. Slone’s several different duties include the instruction on safety planning, teen dating violence and self-improvement while primarily giving victims of domestic violence a confidant and friend.
“(Beaman’s programs) give them a support system. They can be assured they are turning to someone who has a lot of knowledge of the local resources and an understanding of what they’re going through,” commented Slone. “They know they are not alone because their advocate knows what they’re feeling.”
Slone’s first interaction with a domestic violence victim can come at any stage of the recovery process; some come to her immediately after escaping their abusers while others have been recuperating in the Beaman Home shelter and need to take the next step. Many come to her just to see if walking away or entering into the Beaman Home program is the right step.
“Victims need to be aware that they have to take that first step; they’ll have people beside them for every step of the way after, and that the first phone call to the Beaman Home is the most difficult to place,” Slone said. “As advocates, our goal is to empower; we’re not going to tell them to leave, but we’ll give them options and work together to find out the best way to escape the cycle of violence. It also helps that everything between us is confidential and their abusers will not know.”
One of Slone’s key pieces of advice is for the victim to find someone who is knowledgeable about the cycle of violence, whether they are close to the affected family or not. She points out that family doctors and school counselors, though not heavily invested in the lives of a family, are educated on domestic violence enough to guide a victim in the right direction.
As the Beaman Home continues the capital campaign to fund a new shelter for victims of domestic violence, Slone is a gigantic proponent of the new facility, and sees many benefits to the new shelter and outreach center.
“In my opinion, the biggest benefit of the new facility is the unity and continuity it will bring to Beaman Home’s programs. Many times, residents at the shelter don’t seek help from the outreach program or vice-versa because today we’re housed in separate sites. These separate locations mean our clients don’t have an opportunity to get to know the advocates in the other programs, and therefore, may not feel comfortable seek additional services. I feel a lot of the outreach clients I work with are afraid of the stigma of the shelter, but in the new building, having residential services just a few feet away, will let me show them that it’s not a scary, tabooed place,” she said.
Slone also is pleased the new facility has been designed with the idea of providing specialized programming for adults and children. In addition to expanding Beaman’s adult Life Skills & Activities Program, the new space will allow a new Children’s Program to be implemented to help them cope with the abuse they’ve witnessed or experienced.
“There’s little room for children in our current shelter. We’ll have more of a healing ground for children in the new shelter, giving mom and her kids a private place to talk and let emotions run without publicly embarrassing everyone. The kids will have their own activities and space, allowing the mothers some space to talk and have meetings without the worry of having her children overhear the details of her situation,” explained Slone.
Finally, Slone is excited about the new shelter’s public presence, commanding respect instead of being a smaller, “secretive” organization with services spread throughout town.
She said, “The facility will be in the community’s eye, to show we’re proud to be here to help victims make their journey to becoming a self-sufficient survivor. Having a public location will send a message to victims that they don’t have to be ashamed to seek services. It will let them know, we’re here to assist! It’s that unity which will, hopefully, heighten the awareness of domestic violence while also encouraging victims to pick up the phone and make that first call.”
Slone has been involved with the Beaman Home for more than half the 29 years Beaman Home has provided shelter and outreach services to domestic violence victims residing in Kosciusko, Fulton and Marshall counties. She recognizes that domestic violence victims are everywhere, working up the courage to take their first step toward independence. Advocates, like Slone, answer the Beaman Home’s crisis hotline 24/7 and victims have the chance to talk with a professional about options. If you need help, please call toll-free 877-725-9363.
The Beaman Home’s plans for a new Emergency Shelter and Outreach Center to replace one they have simply outgrown, will provide appropriate space in which to shelter victims and their children. It will also expand services to help empower them to take first step into a violence-free lifestyle. Beaman is in the final stages of raising the funds necessary to construct the new facility.
You can help. The K21 Health Foundation has committed a $250,000 grant for the campaign and will match all new gifts received between now and Sept. 30. To learn more about Beaman’s plans or to make a contribution to help build the expanded Emergency Shelter and Outreach Center, please call 574-372-3503 or visit Beaman’s website at  www.thebeamanhome.com
For questions regarding this article, please contact Tracie Hodson, executive director, at tracie@thebeamanhome.org or 574-372-3503.