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May 5, 2008

Local support group helps end the cycle of abuse

The Domestic Violence Services sponsored support group in Milford consists of a dedicated group of women who count on each other for bluntness and honesty. They know that finding safety and happiness in themselves and in their relationships requires support, hard work and a lot of deep self-exploration.

They also know that the road to safety is not always straight.

In fact, statistics show that a woman will go back to the same relationship seven times before she finally leaves. Or, she may get out and go on to a new but equally abusive relationship.

The emotions involved in leaving an abuser include guilt, remorse, self-blame, fear of being alone and insecurity, and they can tangle themselves so deeply inside a survivor that she’ll repeatedly find herself in a perilous position.

That’s when the members of domestic violence support groups blow the whistle on one another.

Sarah Sorenson, shelter coordinator at Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven, says, “as they’re talking with each other about a great new relationship, the other women will ask if he’s been asking you for money, if he’s been putting you down, asking for things.”

If the answers are yes, Sorenson says, “Support group members will be honest because these women have been through it. They’ll say, ‘I’m picking up bad signs.’”

“Sometimes,” Sorenson says, “women say, ‘I am already going down that road’ and the other women say, ‘It’s okay. You may make that mistake again but we’ll always be there for you.’ There’s no judgment because they’ve been there. A support group makes it possible for them to have a safe space.”

And the fact is that there are times when the support group’s insights aren’t enough. Sorenson explains, “Sometimes people stop coming because they’re involved, because they’re in a bad place and don’t want others to know. But if they come back, they don’t have to explain.”

Most of the women in the Milford support group originally came to it after contact with the core programs at Domestic Violence Services—emergency shelter for women and children or the 24-hour crisis hotline. Those two programs, which United Way of Greater New Haven invests in, get measurable results. http://www.uwgnh.org/commimpact/successbytown2002.cfm
Click here, to read about a woman who participated in a Woodbridge support group last year and finally left a violent relationship.

Sorenson says, “What we provide to the women is a unique understanding of what domestic violence means in their lives and an ongoing source of connection and support.” Whether it is via the hotline, the shelter, or an ongoing support group, “We’ve been told that the one thing that kept a woman going was that there was a warm voice speaking to her, someone who understood.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven’s 24-hour hotline at (203) 789-8104. Outside the greater New Haven area, please call toll free 888-774-2900.

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