By Rev. Michele Robbins
Pastor, Ukiah UMC
The topic of domestic violence can be difficult to talk about, especially for those of us who know the pains that come when someone you love is in an abusive relationship. Being open to share about these experiences can help others who are caught up in the emotional roller coaster of having a family member or friend in a domestic violence situation. This is why I call the educational and empowerment work that I do to help end domestic violence my heart work. I know firsthand how horrible it is to see a loved one suffer from physical and emotional abuse.
Ten years ago, one of my daughters was in a relationship that became abusive as her partner used several abuser tactics to control her. He worked hard to isolate her from her family, but he underestimated what unconditional love could endure. There was no way I was ever going to give up on my daughter getting out of the relationship.
Thankfully, I had studied domestic violence during my undergrad work in Social Science, with a focus on family relations, at Chico State. I knew how difficult it could be to help a person to gain the needed confidence to leave. I knew the dangers involved. What I didn’t know about was the vicarious trauma that happens when you are the support person helping a victim to gain enough of their own power back to be able to leave. Most support people go through times of depression, anxiety, or both. Self-care becomes an important strategy for sticking with the victim until the abusive cycle is no more.
Because of my education and my personal experience, I have been able to train support people in how to listen, talk, and take action when someone they love is being abused. My workshops have taken place in Uganda, Malawi, the Bay Area, and now in Ukiah. This is one more way that Ukiah United Methodist Church is working to bring Shalom to our community.
"Shalom" is a Hebrew word that is often translated as peace, but it is much more than that. Shalom is the peace that comes when everyone has what they need for health, healing, harmony, and wholeness. It is like the South African word "Umbuntu," which means “I am well when we are well.” With one in four women and one in seven men experiencing abuse from an intimate partner, we can expect that at some point in our lives each of us will know someone who needs support to get out safely.
Would you know what to say as a support person? Would you know what the hidden pitfalls are that the abuser could use to further isolate the victim? Would you know how to help your friend or loved one navigate the often long journey of seeking safety?
Come and learn how to be a support person who can truly help. On Saturday, November 2, from 9 a.m. to noon, we will be gathering at UUMC, 270 N. Pine St., Ukiah, California to gain a better understanding of why it’s so difficult for victims to leave, what good support includes, and how to avoid typical pitfalls. An officer from Ukiah Police Department will be there to share about civil standbys, and a representative from Project Sanctuary will have a presentation on resources and programs available in Mendocino County.
I am thankful that my daughter has been able to reclaim her personal power and her life. Since 2015 she has been free from the nightmare and is now living the life she deserves. This is my hope for all people. Shalom can happen when we come together to work for the good of all in our community.
Contact me for more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download flyer (PDF) here.