Our Opinion: Agency offers help to survivors of violence

Friday, January 20, 2017

“I believe you.”

“I’m here for you.”

“It’s not your fault.”

These are among the first three things a woman in need of help will hear when seeking services at the Middle Way House of Greene County, according to Women’s Advocate Christa Turpin.

The Greene County office, located on Main Street in Bloomfield, is an extension of the Bloomington location, which services six area counties.

Middle Way House provides support services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. The Bloomington location offers services a step further, providing emergency and transitional housing for women and their children to help them get away from the dangerous situations.

Turpin said the women’s advocates in Greene County have dealt with all types of survivors, even those who were subjected to human trafficking.

“We do crisis intervention, personal and legal advocacy, education, support services, education for the community and youth programs,” Turpin said.

While the Middle Way House often gets referrals from the prosecutor’s office, Department of Child Services, the courts, schools and other such agencies, Turpin said it is also commoĺn for women to realize they need help and come to the agency themselves. The advocates travel all over the county to help women in need. Also, if someone from another county feels safer working with advocates in Greene County, the staff will work accordingly.

“We helped 250 women last year. At one point ĺwe did the math, several years ago, we have seen one percent of the population in Greene County, and we’re not talking about the children,” Turpin said.

Middle Way House intern Samantha Edwards, who is currently attending the University of Southern Indiana, said it takes an average of seven to 12 times for someone to get away from an unhealthy or unsafe situation.

“There’s a stigma associated if you go back, maybe you feel like your family won’t want to help you, but that’s a normal thing to happen,” Edwards stressed.

Unfortunately, some women feel as though they deserve what they are getting or feel as though they don’t have other options.

“There’s always an excuse to stay. One of our goals as advocates is to try to dissolve those excuses and make it so they don’t have to rely on those excuses. We provide options,” Turpin explained.

But, it takes someone who recognizes the need to change their situation -- most often for their own safety and for the safety of their children -- before the advocates can be of help. Even if they recognize their need for help, Turpin said it is especially difficult for many women to understand what has happened to them is not their fault.

“That’s often a barrier for people to seek help, because they’re told it’s their fault. Like, ‘If you wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have done this’,” Turpin said. “Everyday we hear, ‘Well, it’s my own fault.’ ”

Edwards said it is also important to make sure their clients know “they are the boss of their own life.”

Edwards said the organization utilizes the “Wheel of Power and Control” to help people better understand what abuse can look like. Abuse is not only characterized by physical violence, but also by the threat of physical violence. Another form of abuse that most don’t think about is “economic abuse,” which includes preventing a woman from getting a job or taking her money so she does not have financial means without first asking and thus having total control.

Middle Way House of Greene County also takes their program a step further -- starting with educating our youth about healthy relationships.

“It’s a five-session program, where we talk about gender roles and stereotyping to sexual assault,” Turpin explained, noting the program is geared toward seventh and 10th graders.

For more information about the Middle Way House of Greene County and, if needed, to start on your journey to healing, call 812-384-8769.