I have spent countless hours over the past eleven years asking that question. I work as a shift supervisor for a small emergency services agency in northwest Georgia that serves a community of about 80,000 people. Often people associate my job with a constant barrage of structure fires, armed robberies, six car pile ups with entrapped victims, or call after call of talking family members through CPR instruction when a loved one goes into cardiac arrest. The reality of it is much more mundane than that in an agency the size of mine. Although we more often have non-emergent calls than not, the reality for our callers is that it’s still probably the worst day they’ve ever had.
All too often, our job consists of repeated calls from victims of domestic violence. Sure, there are males who are victims of domestic violence; however, it’s mostly the women who turn to us for intervention again and again when things take a turn for the worse at home.
It doesn’t take long to understand why we get repeat calls from these women. When you have children to raise on an education or skill set that is lacking, it’s understandable to think that dealing with these situations is what’s currently best for your children. If I leave him, who’s going to help me keep a roof over my babies’ heads? Who’s going to help me feed them? Who’s going to help me get them on the bus or dropped off at school? Who’s going to help me care for them while I go to work at my minimum wage job? How will I even get to work since he has the only vehicle? What will happen to them if they lose the health insurance he’s carrying on them? Yeah he drinks a little too much sometimes and it causes him to get angry, but overall he’s a good, loving provider when he’s sober. My babies are too young to remember the times he’s blacked my eye and pushed me down the hallway…Right?
I wish I could say this is an exaggeration. I wish I could say that each of these victims is strong enough to fix this on her own. I wish I could say that when the lady from Cedar Street went to the hospital with broken ribs was the last time I had to send officers to her home. I wish I could say that he is also seeking the help he needs to deal with his issues in a more constructive, less violent manner. I wish I could wipe clean the mental slate of these young minds so they hopefully won’t repeat the vicious cycle of abuse.
One thing I don’t have to wish for is the beginning of a solution to help these victims. That’s where Reforming Arts comes in.
By providing valuable educational services that can help women become independent, strong thinkers and learners, Reforming Arts is helping them earn gifts to last a lifetime. These women have been beaten down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Volunteer instructors from Reforming Arts help them to learn to trust: themselves, each other, the outside world. Not only are we providing them with practical academic instruction that can serve them well in college and job settings, we are instilling intangible values they haven’t seen in a long time—if ever: Confidence. Hope. Optimism. Pride. Self-respect.
Even for our students who aren’t mothers yet, what a wonderful thing to have a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, or granddaughter with such a renewed spirit! She will then be able to go on to inspire other women. Oh, and she certainly will! The options are infinite and only limited by our students’ imaginations.
My last wish is that you’ll join us on our wonderful journey. We are learning all along the way, being taught by our students, our supporters, and each other.
And we certainly will always have room for one more.