As we all know, love can be challenging, and it can be even tougher to understand from an outside perspective — especially when abuse is taking place or suspected. That’s why today I want to talk about one of October’s lesser-known initiatives: it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Think it could never happen to you or someone you care about? According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women and one in nine men experience intimate partner physical violence. And the risk increases dramatically for transgender people: studies suggest half of all trans people will encounter domestic violence at some point in their lives.
In Buncombe County, there are numerous organizations working to eradicate domestic violence locally. I spoke with April Burgess-Johnson, Executive Director of domestic violence advocacy + crisis response org Helpmate, for the scoop on local resources for survivors to keep in mind + for advocates to share. FYI, If you or anyone you know is in physical danger, don’t waste time; call 911.
April told me that domestic violence was a serious problem before the pandemic, but requests for safe shelter to Helpmate have increased by 225 percent since the pandemic began. Here are some of the ways Helpmate works to fill a very critical need — and how you can help support their work.
Help for survivors
- Hotline: Call (828) 254-0516 to reach Helpmate at their 24-hour crisis line manned by staff + trained volunteer advocates. While not specifically dedicated to domestic violence, sexual assault response agency Our VOICE also offers a 24-hour hotline at (828) 255-7576.
- Online: eNOugh NC is an online resource that provides info and helps connect survivors with services, including domestic violence programs, child abuse response and prevention + abuser intervention programs.
- Shelter: Helpmate has partnered with local hotel groups to create a designated area for folks who need socially distanced emergency auxiliary shelter. Marshall-based My Sister’s Place also offers assistance, including emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, counselling + more to Madison County residents, while Safelight in Hendersonville offers these services to residents of Henderson County. Need help in WNC but you’re outside of those three counties? Search for a shelter nearby by using domesticviolenceshelters.org + adding in your location.
- Clothing: Both Homeward Bound Welcome Home Donation Center (205 Elk Park Dr.) and Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry’s Donation Center (24 Cumberland Ave.) allow domestic violence survivors in Buncombe County to shop for free.
- Counseling: Helpmate offers clinical counseling services, including individual + group, free of charge. ProTip: group counseling is currently on hold due to the pandemic.
- One Stop Shop: The Family Justice Center (35 Woodfin St.) is a location of multi-service providers who work together to offer assistance to domestic violence survivors. These orgs include Helpmate, Mountain Child Advocacy Center, Our VOICE, Mission Health, Buncombe County Health and Human Services, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Pisgah Legal Services, and the Asheville Police Department.
- Legal: Pisgah Legal Services (62 Charlotte St.) works with domestic violence shelters, prevention agencies, and other partners in eleven WNC counties to provide info and services designed to aid independence from abusers, including protection orders, separation + divorce, child custody and support + more. With on-site attorneys + legal assistants, the Family Justice Center offers information about legal rights + protections.
How you can help locally
- Events: Follow the aforementioned domestic violence centers on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms to keep up-to-date with events going on throughout the community. Many, including Helpmate, have had to postpone or amend their fundraising events to virtual ones. Check out Helpmate’s virtual High Tea 2020 for inspiring stories of resilience.
- Donate: By donating monetarily or through clothing or item donations to ABCCM and Homeward Bound, you’re helping individuals in Buncombe County who may not be able to find assistance on their own. April says small denomination gift cards (e.g., $10-$20) to spots like Ingles, Walmart + Target are particularly helpful for survivors because they can use that money to fill prescriptions and get things like baby formula, diapers, or gas for their car. You can also donate money to Helpmate here.
- Volunteer: Although volunteering has been curbed during the pandemic, Helpmate anticipates being able to take on new volunteers in the New Year. Find info on volunteering with the org here.
- Advocate: Maybe one of the simplest ways to help be a part of the mission of ending domestic violence here is to advocate for victims and survivors. Use your voice to share about your own experience, listen to survivors, and educate those around you on the subject.
- Friends or Family: If you know someone who is being abused, your support is essential. April says sharing the shelter’s crisis line by keeping it in your purse, on your refrigerator, or elsewhere has been useful for countless people. You can also check out this toolkit from Domestic Shelters to learn about the various forms of abuse + how you can help those in need.