Avalon has been working to break the cycle of sexual and domestic violence in Greater Williamsburg since 1978, and now the center is expanding to serve youth in the area as well.
“What we are doing is trying to provide a better future for a child,” said Amie Hartung, counselor. “These kids are golden to us and they deserve it.”
Avalon’s youth services is still in its beginning stages, with only two years under its belt. Since it began, the program has helped hundreds of children through supervised visitations, counseling and advocacy programs, according to Avalon’s website.
Taking the work home
The program began after Avalon supporters recognized a need in the community, said Crystal Skeeter-Davis, director of the youth services program for the center. Skeeter-Davis began with Avalon only a few months after it began in October 2016 because she wanted to serve the children in the community.
“I wanted to help provide youth with a voice,” Skeeter-Davis said. “The chance to help a child that has experienced trauma take steps toward healing is one of the most incredible things I’ve done with my life.”
Both Hartung and Skeeter-Davis work with these youth through difficult situations such as sexual abuse or domestic violence. Throughout the day, members of the Youth Services Center are counseling children and teaching them skills that they hope will provide them with a better future.
But when they go home after work, the kids come with them.
“At the end of the day, these kids are still in your thoughts,” Hartung said. “You can’t help but think about them and hope that the work you’ve done has helped them.”
The volunteers and employees at the Youth Services Center put self-care as a priority, with group yoga sessions and crafting areas that help them to decompress during times of particular emotional stress.
For Skeeter-Davis, she knows that if the staff can’t take care of themselves, then they can’t give their best. And that’s what the children deserve.
Listening to Williamsburg’s youth
In addition to the services offered at the center, staff in Avalon’s Youth Services department also venture to different schools and communities to present their message. Skeeter-Davis recognizes the age gap between her and the community she serves, and she uses that to her advantage.
“I tell them right off the bat: I’m old. And I wasn’t hip when I was 16, so I’m definitely not now.” Skeeter-Davis said. “The students appreciate genuine dialogue because then they know they’re being heard.”
Part of the presentations involve interactive aspects, such as anonymous polls. Students are given remotes with buttons that correlate to answers to a question on the screen. The students can answer anonymously and see what the response of the audience is.
For example, one of the questions asked is something similar to “Have you ever been involved in a sexual situation that you didn’t want to be in?” Students are able to answer yes or no and the results of the audience on the screen. This helps to make situations more real to the students and drives home the message behind the presentation.
“In the end with everything we are doing, we are just trying to reach out,” Skeeter-Davis said. “We want these kids to know they are not alone.”