The woman showed up at the Anaheim Family Justice Center with a newborn in her arms. Her nose was broken. Both eyes were bruised. Her boyfriend didn’t just beat her.
He burned all her clothing.
“It was just so sad,” said Kerith Dilley, AFJC Foundation’s new executive director. “All she had – literally – was the clothing on her back.”
Dilley joined the AFJC team about a month ago. She’s already making major contributions, said Lt. Julian Harvey, who runs the AFJC.
“Kerith’s background is one of making non-profits more successful,” Harvey said. “Her experience, and her passion for the cause will move the Foundation forward and develop even more support in the community. ”
The morning “Maria” arrived, Dilley and her staff sprung into action to raise donations, sending an email to donors and asking Sgt. Rick Martinez to post a note on Anaheim PD’s Facebook page.
The result: Maria and her child went on a $250 shopping spree – and the AFJC team found her a safe place to recuperate.
“The reality is stories like these are far too common,” said Dilley, who holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Behind the Badge asked her to shed light on AFJC’s goals.
How often does AFJC see women like Maria?
Unfortunately, the AFJC sees women like Maria with all too much frequency – at least one women per day comes through our doors with a story that breaks your heart because of the violence she has suffered – and often at the hands of a family member, no less.
What should somebody who has a friend or family member in domestic violence situation do?
Encourage that person to seek help – the first step is with a trusted resource, such as local police, shelter, or other social services organization. It’s important to begin the healing process and take affirmative steps to end the cycle of abuse. The AFJC doesn’t require survivors to file a police report or press charges to receive our services, but should a survivor need to, our caring advocates and staff effectively facilitate access to such resources.
Any other tips or advice?
Survivors need to understand that it is not their fault that they have been abused.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing AFJC?
The biggest challenge is that the community need for our unique, co-located service delivery model is spiraling upward, just as the economy slows down and contributions slowly decline.
What can the community do?
The community can help by spreading the word about the AFJC so survivors of family violence can receive the help and services they need to remove themselves from an unsafe situation and break the cycle of violence. Additionally, our community can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work. Gifts of all sizes have a tremendous impact on our survivors. In fact, the average gift raised for Maria was $25.
What are AFJC’s biggest priorities in 2010?
Our biggest priorities are to expand our successful Survivors Academy and Direct Victim Assistance Fund and launch a program for children of domestic violence survivors.
Our Survivors Academy is a 10-workshop program led by a highly trained and culturally competent facilitator that builds the self-esteem of survivors of domestic violence as well as provides them tools and skills to become self-sufficient not only for themselves, but for the rest of their families, especially children. We piloted the Survivors Academy in September and after the class ended, two of the women enrolled in GED courses, another two enrolled in ESL classes, one has received her U-Visa (for survivors of physical or mental abuse from criminal activity). Another has started a catering business.
AFJC is also creating a Victim Assistance Fund so we have the flexibility to respond to situations such as Maria. Unfortunately, we’ll likely need several more emergency appeals as this fund gets depleted. But we’re excited to engage the community in empowering victims to begin reconstructing their lives after facing trauma.
We’re also looking forward to providing mental health and therapeutic services to the children domestic violence survivors. Research shows that children who grew up in abusive homes – even if they weren’t the victims of abuse – are seven times more likely to become an abuser.