Unlike most people, Jillian Pastoor and Susan Shoultz would love to be out of their jobs. If this were the case, Lansing would be free of domestic violence.
Unfortunately, according to Shoultz, the rate of domestic violence has stayed the same in recent years, and people like Pastoor and Shoultz, the community relations coordinator and executive director for End Violent Encounters (EVE), Inc., are still seeing just as many victims come through the EVE shelter and programs each year.
The only changes they’ve seen have been demographic. Recently, there has been an influx of women 45 and older seeking help. Traditionally, victims have been mainly women between the ages of 18 and 34.
“We are now going to have to start evaluating what we’re going to have to do differently,” said Shoultz of addressing the different needs of this new demographic.
Although there have also been some men coming forward as victims of domestic violence recently, the majority of victims of domestic violence are still women. EVE is a great resource for women and children looking to start over. It may take many visits before women permanently leave their abuser.
“Safety is such a basic need. Victims can always come back to us,” said Pastoor. “An individual will go back to their partner seven to 10 times.”
EVE offers many programs and services to victims of domestic violence, including a 24-hour crisis support line, counseling to families and individuals, children’s activities and a relationship with the personal protection office. A Girls Are Powerful (GAP) community program has been developed as well, through which EVE representatives visit schools to educate students about dating violence and self image. A similar group for boys is being developed.
In order for all of these programs to function, EVE is operated by many volunteers. Last year, EVE volunteers contributed a total of 2,200 hours. Volunteers have to go through a good deal of training before aiding victims to ensure they are prepared to assist people turning to them for help.
“We have a pretty intensive weekend-long training because we don’t want to re-victimize anyone,” said Pastoor.
The average stay for victims in the shelter is two weeks, but that varies depending on the person. They encourage victims to utilize safety planning.
“We want to teach empowerment, not for them to depend on us,” said Shoultz. “People think they’re alone, we want to break down that isolation.”