(Some names have been changed for the safety of the victims.)
Those who are being abused by a loved one live in a world that is often darkened by fear. Many are controlled into seclusion and have very little support outside of their abusive relationship. They are not afforded the daily pleasures so many of us take for granted. In many instances, their situation seems hopeless and they feel helpless to change it.
With the help of invaluable volunteers, the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center is working to end domestic violence in our communities.
Lisa says the hardest part about being a victim of domestic violence is not understanding why this has happened to her.
"The worst thing that has happened to me as a victim is exactly that ... to feel like a victim. To know that the person that had promised to love me and take care of me is also the one that has exposed me to difficult situations," she said.
She said she left her world and family to be with him.
"Because of him, my life is filled with uncertainty," she said.
Many victims experience the same feelings as Lisa. They talk about being scared all of the time and not knowing what is going to happen next. Others talk about how domestic violence in a previous home has forced them into homelessness. In fact, "Futures Without Violence" reports that domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness in the United States.
National statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Georgia was recently ranked 8th in the nation for its rate of men killing women. According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, at least 1,550 Georgia citizens lost their lives due to domestic violence from 2003 through 2015. The commission also reports firearms were the cause of death in 80 percent of recorded domestic violence fatalities in 2015.
The Crisis Center, which has been serving local victims of domestic violence for more than 37 years, offers emergency shelter and outreach services to the residents of Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties. These services include assistance with temporary protective orders, individual and group support, crisis intervention, safety planning and many others. The center's hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by trained staff and volunteers.
Unfortunately, Crisis Center staff cannot battle this injustice alone. Volunteers are needed to provide some of the services that prove vital for these victims. According to Katora Printup, Crisis Center executive director, there are many ways to volunteer.
"Sometimes it's the small things that make such a big difference," she said.
Printup said simply sitting with a victim during a court proceeding can mean so much.
"Court volunteers can help our staff be sure that all victims feel supported during those difficult times," she said. "Sometimes victims just need to know that a strong support is sitting in the next chair. It is quite possible that our volunteers may never know how much they truly mean to the victims we serve."
What do local volunteers have to say about volunteering at the Crisis Center?
"It brings me joy to know that I can help victims have a more normal life and not have to worry about another person judging them," Crisis Center volunteer Katia Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who is a student at Dalton State College, said she enjoys providing child care at the Crisis Center because it's important the children have someone to look up to and know that not everyone they encounter is there to hurt them.
"It's pure joy to help get these kids on the correct path to be the best they can be, despite their unfortunate past," she said.
Gonzalez also said seeing how a child can be so normal and yet have lived through things others could not imagine is her favorite part of volunteering.
"Seeing these kids bloom out of their shell is a wonderful experience," she said. "I have seen kids enter the Crisis Center with hurt emotions on their faces and after a couple of weeks they are back to being a normal kid trying to have a good time."
If you or someone you love is in an abusive situation, call the center's 24-hour hotline at (706) 278-5586 or 800-33HAVEN. If you are interested in volunteering at the Crisis Center or in attending the volunteer orientation on Nov. 1, call the center at (706) 278-6595.