Last month, Lisa and I were invited to speak at a Women’s Studies class at the University of Toledo. The course was titled Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) taught by Professor Jamie Barlowe. Part of the coursework included presentations from nonprofit organizations working in the field of Domestic Violence, and we were privileged to follow the presentation of Deidra Lashley from Bethany House.
I was personally thrilled to be in a Women’s Studies class again and excited to hear what the young women in the class had learned and how we could apply their knowledge to the Selene Center program plans. Their insight was beyond my expectations, and their thoughtfulness with the subject matter of domestic violence was benevolent.
Our intention was to make the coursework as real as possible and describe in stark terms the challenges our community was facing. They had heard very powerful presentations from other amazing domestic violence organizations, but one week before our presentation a woman from Maumee had still been murdered on her own front porch by a long time abusive ex-partner. How, I asked the class, could this still be possible with all of the resources we have in the Toledo area?
The conversation then turned to Lisa, who shared her deeply personal experience of domestic violence with the women. She shared how her son had ran to the neighbors house after she was knocked unconscious and told them, “I think my dad killed my mom.” Her words were sobering, but incredibly necessary. We did not want to paint a rosy picture of the landscape of domestic violence agencies and programs, in fact we wanted to hear directly from the class what could be done to help women like Melissa and Lisa in the future.
These are the ideas of our young leaders in the domestic violence movement:
There are emergency shelters, but they aren’t long term. There are long-term resources but they don’t have emergency housing. Why can’t we combine them into one space?
What do women do when they don’t have money or a job? How can they afford to get out of their relationship and pay rent to a transitional housing program?
Why is the waiting list so long to get into a permanent shelter?
Why are women with felonies on their record being denied housing?
Why can’t we work with attorneys, prosecutors, and real estate agents to help people who are fleeing abusive relationships?
Do shelters provide families with essentials like food, shampoo, clothes, diapers, and all the items necessary to start over?
Professor Barlowe, we could not thank you and your students enough for these questions and we have so much work to do to address them.