When Love Hurts | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

When Love Hurts

A woman comes home after work, her stomach in knots. She is afraid her husband has been drinking and may be in a bad mood. "I hope I don't say anything to trigger him," she thinks to herself. Her husband, a man who would never be considered abusive in the outside world, is different behind closed doors.

As she walks into the house, he starts in on her, screaming, shouting and hitting, her fears come true. She thinks: "He just gets out of control like this when he drinks. He is so loving when he is sober." Breaking away, she goes to call the police. But he hid all the phones. That is when she realized he was not as out of control as she thought. In fact, he was in control of everything.

This may sound like a Lifetime movie, but it is not. This is the testimony of a woman who found help at the Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl. It is, sadly, a common story.

Despite being one of only two facilities for battered and abused women in the metro area—Catholic Charities in downtown Jackson is the other one—the center is coming dangerously close to closing. It currently provides services for women in not only Rankin County, but also Hinds, Madison, Issaquena, Warren, Sharkey, Simpson and Yazoo. There are 11 shelters in the state that are members of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and two other non-member shelters.

The center's major problem is simply funding. Due both to problems raising substantial donations and past financial difficulties under different management, it is having trouble staying afloat and serving the estimated 75 to 100 women who pass through its front doors each year. Patti Williams, executive director of the center for the past year, said: "We have a new administration and a new board that is committed to keeping the center open. We are trying to start fresh."

To that end, the center will host a breakfast fund raiser at the downtown AmSouth Building's University Club from 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. The organizers hope to attract influential women from around the state to the breakfast, as well as their donations.

Emily Meyers, a member of the center's board of directors, said she does not want to say the center will close because that would defeat the hopeful message they try to give to the victims it serves. "Like all nonprofits, we have financial problems. We are all competing for the same dollars. Right now, we are trying to bring awareness to our center and our fund-raising needs," she said.

Williams hopes to find more committed sponsors to the program—and more with deep pockets. "We need more corporate sponsors to give monthly," she said.

Current sponsors include individuals who give what they can afford. One woman gives $10 a month, and other women give $100 each month. "It might not be much, but these ladies give every month, and they are faithful. We can count on that money because it comes every month," Williams said.

Meyers said she hopes more people will see the problems these women go through. "We need people to find it in their hearts to help these women. If this kind of thing ever hits close to home for you, it is an eye-opening experience. We are trying to help women and children get out of this cycle of abuse, and we are trying to give them hope for a better tomorrow," she said.

The center's services include an emergency shelter for domestic-violence victims and counseling for victims needing shelter, as well as those who do not. They provide day care and network with community partners to provide educational services to women. Community partners also help with corrective cosmetic surgery for women who have been disfigured.

The Center also has a Second Chance Thrift Store located at 409 Roberts St. in Pearl. "It is the sole revenue-producing entity for the center. It does really well," Meyers said. "The profit from what we sell goes back into the program." Last year the store made $33,000 for the center, which also accepts clothing and furniture donations.

"The victims have the first choice of everything in the store. Then, when they leave and go into an independent-living situation and not back to the perpetrator, we provide them with a house full of furniture," Williams said. "It might not be the best because it is donated furniture, but it is better than what they have, which is usually nothing."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 5.3 million intimate-partner victimizations occur each year among U.S. women ages 18 and older. More than a million women and 371, 000 men are stalked by partners each year. A 2000 study conducted by the Violence Policy Center stated that Mississippi was No. 1 in homicides by men against women.

"A lot of people think, 'Oh, domestic violence: they just got in an argument, and she is hollering domestic violence,'" Williams said. "This is different. I am talking body parts being cut off, guns being shot inside a woman's body to abort babies, hair forcibly cut off. These are brutally violent incidents of abuse."

Many people wrongly think domestic violence only occurs in poor, uneducated families. "It has no class system," Meyers said. "It happens to doctors' wives and the wealthy, as well as the most destitute. Also there are lots of middle-class people. … It is real and in our city, in our state."

In an effort to increase community involvement, the center is also working on a family-mentoring program to create a support system for women once they leave the shelter. "Because what often happens is they start to feel lonely and go back to the perpetrator," Williams said. "If (a victim) has a family that she can call, it might help her to stay strong."

To donate money, goods, furniture, clothing or your time, call 936-6480. The center can provide a truck to pick up furniture or appliances. If you are a woman who is being abused and needs help, call the 24-hour crisis hotline at 932-4198.

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