My 48-hour training begins

Click to enlarge.
Family Shelter Service DVA training booklet
Note 1: I extend deep gratitude to my lovely friend Amy, who sponsored my training. Though modest, the cost exceeded our budget, and this important work I'm doing would not be possible without her contribution. ♥

Note 2: While I will usually refer to the victims and survivors of domestic violence as female (most are), I recognize, as do the training materials, that many victims are GBT men, and some are heterosexual men. 

My state mandated Domestic Violence Advocacy training (in order to volunteer at the local shelter) began this morning, and already, I'm learning so much. The training is comprised of eight 6-hour sessions, each jam-packed with lectures, notes, role-play, videos, and more. I filled four pages with notes today, even on top of what I was given in handout form. I've made some of the more pithy statements into graphics. Feel free to share/pin/etc if you feel so moved. More below.

I thought ahead and packed a lunch, but after the morning's discussion and in particular the viewing of "Violence: An American Tradition," I found myself too nauseous to eat, which almost never happens to me. Three hours into this 48 hour training, I can tell that it is going to be a hard on me, emotionally and physically. I pre-emptively grabbed tissues after the first hour.

I wonder if maybe this is affecting me too much. How will I be able to hold myself in enough of a calm and professional space to help people if I am so affected by their plight? Then again, how can a compassionate person not be affected by such horrors? Is complete clinical detachment really necessary? If so, I may not be cut out for this work - or maybe the training will help me develop it.

I think it might not be a bad idea to make a standing appointment with a therapist and/or my minister to process this training. It is personal and emotional for me, having grown up for a time in an abusive household. But the experience is also powerfully spiritual. My desire to help the world heal, to be a force for good, is what drew me to Unitarian Universalism in the first place - it's why the principles resonate with me.

And many of the women who enter into the service of this shelter are in need of spiritual care. Religion is often a factor in a woman's hesitancy to leave her abusive spouse. Sometimes the horrors faced in a violent relationship can shatter the faith of a victim. I asked the facilitator whether there are chaplaincy services or spiritual advisers available to the clients. This is something they are working on and I wonder how I can be a part of it. Just like Faith Aloud became very important to me in my work as a clinic escort, because of the affirmative faith-based support they offer to women facing the decision to have an abortion (in fact, that's how I found them - by wondering aloud, to Google, if anyone was providing that service), I can see that domestic violence victims need similar care. They need to hear authoritatively that this treatment of them is not ok, not part of a higher purpose, not their cross to bear. At the very least, they need to be heard by someone who can hold their spiritual selves gently.

I frequently find myself wishing I could fix the world. I'm a fixer - a common thread in domestic violence victims and survivors, as a matter of fact, and likely the case for survivors of direct and indirect childhood violence as well. And, as our facilitator mentioned, it does so often go hand in hand with being a woman. But I need to overcome that desire, to a point. I can't make decisions for people. I can't fix them. I can only support them and empower them, advocate for them, listen to them, be present and knowledgeable. I can be on their side.

So here I am, once again, working toward a lay-ministry of presence, of showing marginalized people that yes, there are others who care, who value you and your life.

In DuPage county, if you, or someone you know, are living in fear of someone you love, please contact Family Shelter Service. Call the 24-hour hotline at (630) 469-5650 to receive critical information and services.

Scroll down for the rest of my graphics from this week's class.

Photo by flickr user SalFalko, used with Creative Commons licensing

All graphic designs made by Mandie McGlynn (me).
Photos were obtained copyright-free from unless otherwise noted.