Haven house a sanctuary for domestic abuse victims

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walking away from an abusive relationship should be an easy decision, but when one has been beaten down physically and or mentally over time, leaving the situation may not seem like an option, especially when it takes on the face of normalcy.

“Sometimes it is difficult to recognize abuse when deeply involved with someone you love, especially if the abuse is not currently physical,” Haven House Family Shelter executive director Georgia Grodowitz said.

In an effort to help educate and raise awareness of this sometimes-closeted problem, October has been designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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“The City of Vicksburg and Warren County have also publicly declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in our community, and Haven House will be increasing its presence in the community by posting signs, giving out purple ribbons, and participating in health fairs in our service area,” Grodowitz said.

“Domestic violence goes beyond the occasional disagreement or argument experienced by couples in a relationship, rather it is a pattern of behavior,” she said, which can also include family violence, dating violence, emotional and sexual abuse within a relationship and stalking.

“Domestic violence is designed to coerce a partner or family member against their will in a way that makes them fearful for their safety and/or destroys their self-esteem. Physical violence does tremendous damage and can ultimately result in severe injury or death, as violence tends to escalate over time. However, abuse in a relationship is ultimately about power and control over a partner.  It includes emotional abuse through name-calling and negative comments causing an intimate partner to question their own worth or feel like they are going crazy,” Grodowitz said.

Although 85 percent of domestic violence victims are Women, Grodowitz said, men also experience domestic violence.

“Often we use the term “she” when describing domestic violence victims, but I suspect there are many men being abused who are embarrassed to ask for help because of social expectations about men being tough and head of the household,” she said.

Women more commonly abuse men emotionally and with cyber stalking, but Grotowitz said there is evidence of increasing physical violence by women in our community.

Domestic violence also affects children, other family members and friends, which are considered to be the secondary victims, Grotowitz said

“It is painful watching someone you love suffer, and it is especially frustrating when you want to help but don’t know what to do,” she said.

The Haven House Family Shelter offers a safe environment for women and children.

“It is a shared living environment in a confidential location,” she said, adding equal services are also offered for men with referrals to other living arrangements.

“Haven House is actually a comprehensive program offering safety planning, court advocacy, crisis counseling, individual and group counseling for shelter residents, case management services and referrals for an array of supportive services throughout the community,” she said.

Do not ignore red flags present in abusive relationships, which include the relationship getting serious way too soon, extensive romantic texts and phone calls, extravagant gifts, jealous behavior, a lack of respect for the other partners feelings and reluctance to allow the partner time away from the relationship to visit with friends and family.

“An abusive person does not start out abusive, it is a gradual procession of behaviors and so many become deeply involved emotionally before they realize they are in an abusive relationship,” she said, “and for those on the outside looking in, someone who is being abused may show signs of increased anxiety or depression, they may make excuses not to spend time with you or may be overly obsessed with texts on their phone. A person in an abusive relationship may make excuses for the partner saying ‘he is just under a lot of stress,’ ‘the fight was really my fault’ and ‘if only he wasn’t drinking.’”

More than 50 residents have been served, this year at the Haven House Family Shelter with more than 150 on an outreach basis.

“Domestic violence is a serious problem, and Vicksburg is a community that cares by making sure the perpetrators are held accountable and that victims are supported through the process,” Grodowitz said.

“Haven House has a 24-hour crisis line if someone needs to call and talk to a staff member who can help them with safety planning,” Grodowitz said.

For more information or to reach the Haven House Family Shelter, call 601-638-0555.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is represented by the color purple and to express one’s support, locals are encouraged to take a picture in their purple shirt, dress, etc. and post on social media with #purplepower.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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