Agency responds to victims’ needs
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Victims of domestic violence have a new safe place where they can speak openly about their experiences and help others break the cycle of abuse.
The Lake Norman Office of United Family Services announced this week the creation of a support group for victims, which will meet every other Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.
The first meeting is scheduled for July 10.
“All women deserve to be in an emotionally stable and physically safe relationship,” Kathryn Firmin-Sellers, Lake Norman region director for United Family Services, said.
The location of the support group has intentionally been left out of all releases, Sellers said, because safety is the No. 1 priority when working with victims of domestic violence.
“If (women) think the support group is for them, they can call our victim advocate, meet with her individually and make sure the group is appropriate for them and then she’ll let them know where it is,” Sellers said. “It’s deliberate so they know they are coming into a safe environment.”
Sellers said studies have shown support groups benefit women who are in abusive relationships.
“In the context of relationships, one of the ways (women) suffer is they’re terribly isolated and they start to question themselves,” Sellers said. “And to be around a group of women who understand the situation can help them break through that isolation. They aren’t going to judge you and they will meet you where you are and help you on your journey. It’s a supportive, affirming environment and they do help a great deal.”
Sellers said United Family Services has been doing victim advocacy work in the area for more than a year and in that time they’ve tried to learn from clients what services are needed in the area.
“One thing they’ve asked for is a support group,” Sellers said. “I think it’s a nice complement to the work we do. It’s really for clients who have finished counseling and have exited their relationships, but want to connect and help network with other women who have been through the same experience, as well as for women who are in that experience. They can learn from each other and lean on each other and I think that’s a missing piece we haven’t had in place yet.”
United Family Services’ victim advocate Amy Putnam and client care specialist Heather Chavis will facilitate the support group meetings.
Sellers said she knows some victims won’t be comfortable in a group setting, but those needing help should still contact the agency. And those in immediate danger can call the agency’s hotline at 704-332-2513.