Shelters for battered women do amazing things. I know, because I volunteered for one in California during college and worked for another in Texas after graduate school. But the three years of experience I got in that world also left me kind of jaded. It’s not just the fact that there is never enough money to help people the way you want to, or that working in an office of only women makes you want to grab a random guy off the street and nail him to the floor just to break up the flow of estrogen. It’s that every group you interact with inevitably lets you down at some point.
#4. The Survivors Might Not Survive
Just a quick vocabulary lesson before we get started: The women and children who receive services from these organizations are no longer called victims; they are called survivors.
And this is their anthem.
That is one reason why it’s so disheartening that there is such a small chance they will escape their situation even once they have left their abuser. Or, to use the correct terminology, their dickwad less-than-human waste of space that should be thrown in a hole and left there. That was always hard to fit on the forms.
When you are devoting your time to helping people get out of abusive relationships, it is maddening to know that 85 percent of women who leave their abusers will return, some of them as many as seven or eight times. You’ll see women using the shelter like it has a revolving front door. And there is nothing you can do to stop it, since chaining them up is probably a step further than even their asshole husband or boyfriend went.
At least until that inexplicably popular intimate partner abuse how-to guide gave him ideas.
Reconciling is part of a pattern in abusive relationships: The abuser will finally do something so terrible that the woman leaves. Then, once she is safe, she stops being angry and starts feeling like she overreacted or worries that her abuser can’t live without her. If she does contact him, he will enter what is called the Honeymoon Phase of an abusive relationship, where he’ll shower her with gifts and promise everything’s different now, which, as far as biggest lies ever, is right up there with “I am not a crook” and “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Then that phase ends, the hitting starts again, and the woman is back in your shelter.
That is if you can even get her to leave him in the first place. I got a call from one woman who was bedridden and completely dependent on her abusive husband for food and medication. She obviously knew she needed to leave since she was calling me, but she kept talking about how he needed her. Finally, I asked if she was willing to die rather than leave him, which was a real possibility since he was withholding medication from her. She said yes. The call ended shortly after that, and I never heard from her again.
But that’s OK because ducklings!
I would encounter situations like that all the time. It’s almost like working in a rehab clinic. You are desperately trying to break people of their habit in the short period of time that you have, and the success stories are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong; that 15 percent of women who do make it out are worth it. But you still spend the vast majority of your time knowing that your efforts are basically useless.
#3. The Donors Can Be Controlling
There are thousands of charities out there, and most of them are so desperate for money that they will perform the services of a cheap whore if it gets them through the next quarter. While everyone is familiar with the big-name charities like Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill, a lot of the most effective ones are small and local. But they are in a constant battle against those larger, “sexier” charities for the limited donations people are able to give. And getting money from people can be like prying a gun from Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands.
One of the issues is that the average person isn’t aware of the day-to-day workings of a charity. A study found that people would be inclined to give more money if they saw something “wonderful” as a direct result. It’s hard to explain that there won’t always be one huge amazing thing that we can point to and say, “Your money did this.” Every donation helps in a million little ways, and those small victories are what really count. Sadly, your $100, while hugely appreciated, is not going to end domestic violence.
At least until I’m in charge, when it will buy the shovels to dig the pit to throw all the f**kers in.
Even when people do donate, they can make you work for it. I understand that there are some charities out there that are little more than scams, but if you do your research first you should be donating to one that puts all its money to good use. That is why it can be frustrating when donations have strings attached. Once again, people want their money to go to “sexy” stuff. It’s great if you want to help buy a new van, but if all the donations are tied up in that when what we really need is more toilet paper for the house, you see the issue.
#2. The Volunteers Might Not Show Up
Here’s a secret about volunteering: No one actually likes to volunteer. It’s like having a job where all you get paid in is thanks, and thanks doesn’t get you that $400 lightsaber you want.
Oh, sure, if you ask someone if they would be willing to volunteer for something, they will say yes. That’s because we all want to think we’re nice people. Ninety-three percent of teenagers say they want to volunteer, but only a fraction of them actually do. And those numbers get even worse as we grow old and bitter. Only 25 percent of Americans volunteered even once in 2013, the lowest amount in a decade. And even if you do manage to get someone to donate their time to you, there is a one in three chance they won’t do it again the next year. That’s a huge problem for charities that are constantly broke. When you can’t afford to pay people, volunteers are vital to making up the difference.
Their multi-ethnic good looks are more realistic than getting four people to show up in the first place.
It’s hard enough to get people to volunteer for things that require no expertise, but women’s shelters have a few extra hoops to jump through, which means even fewer people are willing to do it. For one, you need to have a background check. Abusers have tried to figure out where their victims are by pretending they are interested in helping out. One guy who signed up was actually a registered sex offender. Shockingly, we weren’t scrambling to give him a call back.
Once we know you’re a good person, you need to go through a lot of training. Women’s shelters have volunteers do everything from answer crisis calls to go to the hospital and advocate for rape victims. You can’t just show up and start doing stuff like that. It’s days of really depressing training just so you can go help out in even more depressing and stressful situations. It’s one thing to run a marathon for breast cancer where you post cute photos all over social media so people can tell you how great you are. It’s another when you literally can’t talk about why you woke up at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning because of confidentiality issues.
#rapekit #swag #nofilter #blessed
Since it is so intense and the rewards are so nebulous, volunteers are notorious for not showing up. It doesn’t matter if you talked to them an hour before, you cannot count on them being there. I was the volunteer coordinator at the women’s shelter in Texas, and it was like herding cats. If you want a one-way ticket to heaven or just a really good reference for college, be a reliable volunteer for a few months.
#1. The Cops Aren’t That Helpful
Between the Black Lives Matter movement and the popularity of Making A Murderer, not trusting the police is really in at the moment. But I am a cop-disliking hipster, because I was singing that song way back in 2003.
This is where I have to insert the standard “not all cops are bad cops” disclaimer. But when I went through training to become a volunteer, one of the first things they told us was that when it came to domestic violence situations it was basically better to have The Thing around than a police officer.
Guess which one is more likely to think it’s clobberin’ time?
For one, cops are up to four times more likely to be abusers themselves than the general population. That’s what you get when you have a macho culture combined with legal authority and a firearm in the house. And the numbers might be even worse than that. It is hard to get exact figures because when a police officer is involved the incident is less likely to be officially recorded. Basically, cops cover for other cops. And while police are let go more than 90 percent of the time for lesser offenses like drug use and theft, 30 percent of officers accused of domestic violence keep their jobs. In other words, they have a better chance of being fired for hitting a bong than for hitting their wife or girlfriend.
That means that even when the perpetrator isn’t another officer, police don’t always take domestic violence as seriously as they should. We are supposed to be past the times where they would just tell a guy to take a walk around the block and cool off and then leave, but plenty of women told me that was their experience. Shockingly, not a lot of abusers cool down after you call the cops on them. And that treatment just makes women less likely to alert the authorities in the future.
Soon, bachelorette parties will have to come with trigger warnings.
I was also warned that I needed to know the laws about assault and rape to perfection, because cops would try to talk traumatized victims out of pressing charges. Honestly, I didn’t believe this until I saw it happen myself. That’s when I realized that the reason advocates go to hospitals is more than just to be there with the patient; it’s to make sure she knows her rights since cops are notorious for using victim-blaming and other rape myths to convince survivors that they have no case. Sometimes it seems like they just don’t want the extra paperwork, like Hot Fuzz come to life.
If that is the best we can do for the one in three women who will be raped, stalked, or abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime, something is seriously wrong.