Friday, September 14, 2007
Both reasons brought back memories about my early radio broadcasting career and the documentaries I had done on alcoholics who abuse their families when drunk and another on women who escaped to a United Way shelter.
Carolyn Thomas is a woman who wound up losing 2/3's of her face when her live in boyfriend came home drunk and killed her mother and then shot Carolyn so that the bullet shattered her right eye, tore off her nose and her upper jaw. Somehow she survived but it took her and her medical team over 2 years, a half dozen major reconstructing surgeries and several grueling sessions with various prosthetic geniuses to put her back together. Carolyn's goal was to "stop being someone people are scared of and become someone they can see as being a survivor".
And she is a survivor-nowadays she speaks wherever and whenever she can on the importance of helping women get away from abusive mates and of her horrendous ordeal.
At the first radio station I worked at in Bakersfield, CA I interviewed a lady who, due to her husband's drinking, suffered years of verbal abuse. Fortunately, she found Alanon and they helped her leave and start her life over before the abuse turned physical. She credited her ability to leave and have her own recovery to her personal faith and the wonderful counselors at Alanon.
Coming from a home that was loving and considerate, it was hard for me to imagine anyone staying in a relationship such as this-but after talking to the Alanon counselor I could better understand how someone who is bigger, stronger and your financial support could beat your self-esteem down to this level.
After this documentary-I discussed the subject with my parents. My mother pointed out that her father was indeed a prime example of a verbal abuser. We all had estranged ourselves from my father's mother for the same reason. So even though I had never been physically touched by either one, I too was just as much a victim of their horrible treatment.
A year or so later, I moved on to a major market radio station (it was outside of Los Angeles). During my reign as afternoon news anchor and public affairs person I decided to produce a documentary about women who had not only escaped, but what they did to move past the abuse. I contacted the United Way, who ran a local women's shelter. The lead counselor and three women agreed to do the show. All had children, all had had broken bones and shattered egos. They had been in the shelter two months. One had completed the program, was divorcing her husband, and had not only found a job but rented an apartment. She sounded strong and determined to succeed in raising her 2 children in a loving, non-violent home. One of the other women was scared about being alone with her children. Since she wasn't married to her abuser, the United Way was trying to relocate her and her child and were extending her stay to try and provide her with a better feeling of self-confidence. The third woman sounded as if she was not going to make it. Truly. The counselor said that at this point in the program, they were seeing about a 50% success rate. She wasn't happy with this, but admitted that more often than not-most women returned to their abusive mates within 6 months of leaving the shelter.
Hopefully that has changed since I did that show in 1980.
Several years later, now I was a stay-at-home mom of two and we were preparing to move. The usual clean-up had begun. When I realized all the baby and toddler clothes I had (and in excellent condition), toys that my kids had outgrown and even our high chair, a crib and a couple of car seats, I knew exactly what to do.
I had Sarah and Adam help me clean, sort and box up everything. Then I called my local United Way and asked where I could drop off a donation to the nearest women's shelter. Much to my surprise-they gave me directions to the actual home. I called and asked when the best time would be. The counselor gushed her appreciation and said "Please, our residents can use anything and everything, would now be too soon?"
I put my kids into the car with our boxes. While driving I explained about where we were going and why this was were their old things would do the most good. They couldn't imagine dads who hurt little kids or hit mommies. They were a bit frightened. They were just about to turn 5 and 7. I told them this was usually called a "safe house" and it was a secret to keep all the moms, kids and helpers free from worry.
When I parked-several women greeted us and kept thanking us for all we were doing. They helped us bring in all "the goodies". They were amazed that we were giving them so much.
At that moment, I really wished I had been able to give more.
As a group of baby boomers maybe, with our fine choice of a charity that supports the well-being of these unfortunate women and children, I will feel that "more" is indeed what I will finally be doing.