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The Suburbanite
  • Domestic Violence Project helps women escape abuse

  • What began as a college project has become a calling for Theresa Carroll. Every day, the clinical director and her staff at the Domestic Violence Project work to rescue women and children from dead-end lives of abuse.

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  • What began as a college project has become a calling for Theresa Carroll.
    Every day, the clinical director and her staff at the Domestic Violence Project work to rescue women and children from dead-end lives of abuse.
    When she was in graduate school at then-Walsh College in the ’90s, she wrote a paper on what would be needed to start a library in a battered women’s shelter. She later got an internship with another domestic agency in the Wooster area.
    She joined the Domestic Violence Project in 2003.
    With domestic violence awareness month approaching, Project officials say demand for the agency’s services shows no signs of abating.
    Last year, the agency’s hot line fielded 4,000 calls, and has seen its shelter residents increase 63 percent since 2009.  
    “Economics is one factor, but that certainly is not a new problem,” Carroll said. “We’ve been open since 1978. This is an issue we’ve been facing for years.”
    AWARENESS
    Carroll said the biggest misconception is that victims of domestic violence “deserve” or even enjoy it.
    “That’s totally opposite of what’s true,” she said. “From my experience, it’s women of all walks, all ethnicities, including immigrants. Their story is the same.”
    Carroll said victims who experience or witness abuse as children are more prone to tolerate it as adults.
    “We do a lot of outreach with teens in the form of prevention groups,” she said.
    Stacey Giammarco, Domestic Violence Project’s development and marketing director, said the agency’s Renew Counseling & Recovery Center offers clinical counseling and art therapy for teens and children. Two life-skills programs also are offered to help young people resist peer pressure and recognize healthy relationships.
    “A lot of kids have never seen a healthy relationship,” Carroll said.
    In conjunction with of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the agency has planned a number of public events in October.
    On Oct. 15, several high-school football stars will participate in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” a national awareness campaign for men at Walsh University. Scheduled participants include S’Vonn Pittman of McKinley High School; Bri’onte Dunn of GlenOak High School; Zach Higgins and Alden Hill of Marlington High School, and Austin Appleby of Hoover High School.
    Carroll said escaping abuse is an arduous process, noting that only about 10 percent of domestic-violence victims ever call police.
    “The fear factor is huge,” she said. “Sometimes, it takes years; it’s not something that can done quickly. Some women have gotten out of one abusive relationship, only to enter another. We try to give them the feeling, the knowledge that they deserve better.”
    FEAR FACTOR
    Carroll acknowledges that the obstacles to success can be formidable. She said many women stay because their abusers threaten their children and because abusers are “master manipulators.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “Once they leave, the chances of getting hurt go up 70 percent,” she said. “One of the things we talk about is ‘safety planning’ and vigilance, which is not a fun way to live. There’s also the risk of abusers kidnapping their children.”
    Giammarco said abuse victims often can’t leave because they lack access to money, even when they work.
    “One new trend we’re seeing is women who work, while the men stay home, but the men control the finances,” she said. “We’re not talking about some good, stay-at-home dad.”
    “So she’s doing all the work in and out of the house, and she hands over her paycheck,” Carroll said.
    Carroll said that despite the challenges, helping women to reclaim their lives is rewarding.
    “Most people don’t realize how epidemic it (abuse) is,” she said. “One-third of women say they’ve been abused at some point. I’ve seen women transform their lives. I’ve seen it many times. People say ‘How can you do that work? It’s so depressing.’ But when a woman changes her life, it’s a wonderful sight.”