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Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

January 2006, vol. 11, no. 2

Ending domestic violence one family at a time

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re white or black, Asian or Hispanic or how much money you have (or don’t). It doesn’t care about your sexual preference or what high school you went to. It doesn’t care if you are the smartest person in the world or if you have blond hair or red. Domestic violence happens to many people and is devastating to anybody who witnesses or experiences it. 

Those most affected by this issue are women and children—a population that seems to be growing. Physical, mental and verbal abuse creates emotional and physical strain and in come cases, death. But the problem of domestic violence goes well beyond the human aspect—society is affected too. Alarming statistics taken from the Family Violence Prevention Fund, (FVPF), Web site, <www.endabuse.org/resources/facts/>, propels us to take another look at a problem that some don’t want to believe exists: 
According to FVPF:

 

  • Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

     

     

  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

     

     

  • Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996.

     

     

  • Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence (588,490 total) and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims (103,220 total).

     

     

  • As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.

     

     

  • Women are much more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men.

     

     

  • In 2001, 41,740 women were victims of rape/sexual assault committed by an intimate partner.

     

    In response to these tragic statistics and in an effort to prevent the cycles of domestic violence and homelessness from re-occurring, agencies like WINGS, (Women In Need Growing Stronger), have been established. 

    WINGS was incorporated in 1985 as a housing and shelter program. Once established, the organization began serving women and their children with some housing and valuable resources. By 1990, the agency began offering additional shelter in a transitional living environment for up to two years. Counseling, job training and other support services were also implemented. 
    Today, thanks to volunteers, donors and dedicated staff members, WINGS operates 23 Transitional Living residences and a 15,000 square foot Safe House, the first and only domestic violence shelter in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. 

    The Safe House, which has the capacity to serve 500 women and children each year, provides extensive services, including an on-site healthcare facility. Due to lack of promised State of Illinois funding however the Safe House is only open at half capacity. Since opening in January of 2005 this location has sheltered 124 clients (women and their children). 

    In the last fiscal year Transitional Living residences provided 21,306 nights of shelter to 42 women and 118 children. In addition, to housing comprehensive services, described below, are offered to each woman and child who passes through WINGS doors. 

    Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness. Before coming to WINGS, our residents may be staying in emergency shelters, hospitals, churches, public buildings, automobiles, outdoors, or facing eviction. Families first enter WINGS with inadequate or no income, little or no support system, and no access to affordable housing.

    With Transitional Living and the Safe House combined, WINGS provides short and long-term support to empower women and children with strategies and opportunities needed to rise above their situations of homelessness or violence. Within Transitional Living women have a chance to experience Shared Living homes (Two or three families live in each of these homes, and the approximate length of stay is six months), available at no cost to unemployed women and their children, and/or Apartment Living for employed women and their children, for up to two years. (These residents pay 30 percent of their net income, after their current debt is subtracted, to offset expenses.) During this time of stabilization, WINGS’ residents are expected to work with our Career Services manager to identify job skills, develop a resume and seek employment. 

    While in Transitional Living, WINGS residents receive supportive services from highly trained staff to help them:

     

  • Assess strengths
  • Develop a plan
  • Improve life skills
  • Increase income
  • Reduce debt
  • Refine parenting skills
  • Learn crisis management
  • Increase conflict resolution skills

     

    Services provided by the Safe House include:

     

  • Legal advocacy
  • Links to medical care
  • Counseling
  • Community referrals
  • Transitional living options

     

    Programs shared by both Transitional Living and the Safe House include:

    Children and Family Services – this is a program that provides counseling and recreational and therapeutic activities for the children living to address the issues of homelessness, hunger, family violence, shame and anger. |

    Career Services – Increased income and employability are key factors in achieving independence and self-confidence. WINGS launched a Career Development Program in March 2002 utilizing a combination of classroom exercises, guest speakers, job shadowing experiences, basic computer training, and on-the-job experience in our Resale Store. In May 2003, WINGS hired a Career Services Manager (CSM) to work individually with WINGS residents and graduates to complete testing and assessment, resume preparation, and employment placement. The Career Services’ staff work closely with colleges, government agencies, and employment organizations to identify sources of employment preparation and skills based training. The staff also maintains a high regard for the importance of sharing ideas and developing best practices without duplicating services and preserves informal networking relationships with a variety of vocational, resource and trade associations.

    Additional support services include:

    Project Lifeline – a service that gives women at WINGS, including graduates, the opportunity to pair with a mentor who provides, support, stability and advocacy.

    Graduate Follow-Up – WINGS offers graduates the opportunity to link with staff members, access situational support, participate in agency events and receive household supplies and furnishings as needed. 

    Outreach Services – These services are available to any community member who doesn’t live in WINGS housing. Referrals and information to other social service agencies are provided. 

    Homeless Prevention and Housing Assistance Referrals – this program provides men, women and families at risk of homelessness, access to short term financial assistance to help cover rent or utility expenses. Housing and or other supportive service referrals are also given.

    In addition to housing and services WINGS also operates two resale stores in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The first store, based in Palatine, was opened in 2000 and the second store in Niles opened in 2005. These locations resulted as a direct response from the outpouring of donations WINGS received from the community. Both 9,000 square foot stores house men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, housewares, gently used furniture, books, toys, collectibles, and much more. These facilities allow WINGS to process donations and gives women and children who live in WINGS housing to get items they need at no cost. The items not utilized by the program are then sold to the pubic with the proceeds feeding into the general operating fund for WINGS. 

    Between comprehensive housing, valuable resources, and our resale stores, WINGS is moving forward to making a difference for families and women and children seeking assistance. Throughout the years we’ve grown from one suburb to offering help throughout suburban Cook County. All of this could not be possible however without the dedication of staff members, volunteers and donors. As WINGS continues to move forward in the fight against domestic violence and homelessness we will need more help and additional resources. Volunteering is a key factor in making our programs possible. From working in our resale stores to becoming a mentor to wrapping gifts during the holidays or purchasing school supplies for children there are many ways to become involved and to make a difference. 

    Maybe, with each of us pulling together, statistics like ones above will begin to diminish. The chance of a woman and her child needing a service like WINGS will lessen. Maybe, together, we can end domestic violence on family at a time. 
    The mission of WINGS is to provide a continuum of integrated services in an effort to end homelessness and domestic violence one family at a time. For more information on WNGS services, to volunteer or to make a financial donation please visit www.wingsprogram.com or call 847-908-0910.


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