Being the operations director I don’t spend as much hands-on time with the ladies in our program as I’d like. The healing and care that goes into transforming a victim into a survivor is in the hands of our wonderful safe house and assessment center staff, our dedicated counselors and therapists, and countless others who invest in the restoration of our women. I get to see the ladies socially, or when I have business that takes me to one of the houses, and meet individually with a few for case management.
Today I had the opportunity to spend a good part of the day at our assessment center while the staff and director were in a training. It was amazing.
The assessment center is where the women come straight from the street; they’re fresh out of “the game” and are exhausted, hungry, raw, unstable, and totally out of their comfort zone.
The house was quiet today, with only 3 women; two who have been there about a week and one who just arrived on Friday. Just my coming in, a new face after even a short time in the house, shook things up for them. They kept their distance, one her in her room and the other two on the couch, starting a movie.
The employees left for their training and I sat down to watch the movie, Goosebumps, with the two ladies. We started laughing and as we got comfortable, one of them began sharing how as a child she’d read all of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and loved them. She went on to talk about more childhood favorites, many of my own, and how her parents used to buy her books all the time and make her read before she could go out to play. As the movie went on, she fell asleep on the couch, looking very much like a child who’d been playing all day.
After the movie, all three of the ladies had on their schedule to do some independent study and while two of the ladies worked fine on their own, one of them, a very young looking, pregnant woman, asked for my help. She was struggling to read and then to understand what she was reading, and the other ladies spoke up to say that she often did her study orally. So the other women finished as she and I were getting started, and I read her the instructions, explaining what the words meant. We took our time on a lesson that was all about believing positive messages about ourselves…. the one she struggled to believe was that she was smart. We talked for quite some time about her gifts, and at the end of the lesson she hugged and thanked me, saying I was like her mom who always helped her in school.
As we prepared for dinner, we decided that with so few women there we could go out and get something to eat, which the ladies were thrilled with. Two of them went to shower and “get ready” and the oldest of the group stayed behind and talked. She’s in her mid-30s and done with the life, she just wants to change things. She is full of humor and wit, wild stories and sass, sharing that she made it only through the sixth grade before dropping out and that she never got her driver’s license. She is still struggling to get on schedule after coming off the street, and has been sleeping most of her time at the house so far, which we keep telling her is ok… but she’s ready to get regulated. She says she feels at peace in the house and is amazed, that despite coming from hell and carrying so many demons, they didn’t follow her in. She’s praying that she’ll be able to go to the safe house for long term help.
Spending time with these ladies today reminds me of how important this work is. I don’t always see these things in my role, so when I do I like to make sure that I take it in and save it for all of the times when I’m at networking events or partner luncheons or coalition meetings. These ladies are what matter.