By The Equifax Team
The Center for Women and Families is a Louisville-based organization that has been providing critical services to vulnerable populations since 1912. Equifax Workforce Solutions is a proud sponsor of this organization that works tirelessly to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to go on to live a violence-free life. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and since October 1987, this month has served as a way for communities and organizations to connect and raise awareness about the issues related to domestic violence. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Kenneth Cox, Vice President of Development and Communications, took some time to talk with us about the important work happening at The Center for Women and Families:
We talk about domestic violence all year, but October gives us an extra boost to raise awareness. For this year's campaign, we're highlighting the increase in domestic violence homicides. In July of this year, we had already reached the number of deaths in all of 2021, before the year is over that number is on pace to double. It's shocking and scary. That is the significance of domestic violence awareness. This month gives us an opportunity to remind the community, and get people involved to support the critical work that we do.
During the pandemic, we found that domestic violence cases were much more severe, which makes sense. They were being trapped and isolated with an abuser. I think for many of our victims coming out of the pandemic, their situations look different from those not impacted by domestic violence. If they're still in a relationship with someone who has power over them, they may still be isolated or trapped with them. Even though things may be opening up, victims' situations may or may not be changed.
One is that "it will never happen to me," and that it's a "them" problem, not a “me” problem. I think quite frequently the problem itself is misleading. People think domestic violence victims are mainly women, but they’re not. Men are impacted, men are abused, and it's prevalent in LGBTQ communities. Domestic violence impacts everybody.
Another misconception is people don't understand that domestic violence is not just a personal, private problem between two people. It spills out into the community. On October 5, we had our "Speak Their Name" event where we read the names of people lost to domestic violence over the last year. One of the women was pregnant, so she lost her life and her baby's life. There was also an innocent bystander who was shot and killed during an encounter. It is not only the victims of domestic violence impacted by these senseless tragedies.
Our services are free, and we are available 24/7, and for many people, we're like a first responder, because a victim might call us before they call the police for a variety of reasons. We might be their first way to get to safety and to find resources. There are multiple ways for people to engage with us: They can call us, they can come through our domestic violence nonresidential services, through our shelter, and through our sexual assault services. They may meet us in the hospital or at court, because we're there to advocate and help them through the process. It's really difficult to be a one-stop shop for everything. So, if for some reason we don’t have what they need, we have sister organizations that will. Some of our clients have multiple issues that they are dealing with, like mental health needs, or homelessness, so we are ready to offer recommendations for other resources if we don’t offer them.
Although we provide several kinds of resources, we also work to honor the needs and wants of our clients. We're a very choice-based organization, so if you come to us, we don't force our program participants to do something we think is good for them. Our goal is to not be over intrusive into a client's life. We want them to make their own decisions, which then leads to empowering them to get on a path towards a violence-free life.
VINE can be one of the many tools a domestic violence victim can use to protect themselves, especially when their abuser is incarcerated. VINE, like emergency protective orders, is a way for victims and survivors to install safeguards for them to protect themselves and gain peace of mind.
We're an over 100-year-old organization – founded in 1912. We began in one office, one room in the downtown Louisville, KY, YMCA. At that time, we worked primarily with families. We existed to empower families and women by helping with necessities like employment and childcare. By the 1970s, our focus shifted more to domestic violence. At that time especially, it was a significant, unaddressed issue. Through the years, our focus has been predominantly on reaching and caring for families in our communities.
I’m very excited about our strategic plan, which we are in the midst of launching. We spent the last year developing three areas of focus. The first being to grow into an organization that provides a continuum of care for our clients. We provide many different services, and we want to meet as many of the needs of our clients as possible and partner with other organizations in an effort to care for the whole person.
Secondly, we are focusing on our operational excellence. We are stepping up our game in everything from cultural humility to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The diversity of our staff is important to us, because we want to be as diverse and reflective of the community that we serve. We are making an effort to ensure that we have the best policies and that we're the best place to pull in and attract talent. We are working to ensure the training of our staff makes it so they have everything they need to be the top tier team that they are.
Our third focus is fundraising: To strengthen our revenue generation and ensure we have the funds to do the work that we do, because running a 24/7 organization takes a lot of resources. We never turn anyone down. Through the weekends, nights, and holidays, we're here for anyone impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault.
Thanks to Kenneth for sharing your knowledge and experience working with vulnerable communities in Louisville, KY, and the surrounding areas. We appreciate the work that The Center for Women and Families provides to victims. Through the VINE Service Provider Directory, victims in need of resources and support can find organizations like The Center for Women and Families to set them on the right path. Since the beginning of 2022, there have been over 5800 searches for Kentucky service providers through VINELink. If you are interested in volunteering with The Center for Women and Families or simply wanting to learn more, visit them on their website at www.thecenteronline.org.
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