Understanding the perspective of a domestic violence victim isn’t an easy task but the Avalon Center is here to try.
The center is a nonprofit that aims to end and break the cycle of sexual violence, according to its website.
“People always ask ‘Well, why doesn’t she just leave?’” said Leslie Jingluski, community engagement coordinator for Avalon. “It’s not always just pack up and leave. And awareness is key.”
On Oct. 28, Avalon will host its second iteration of the “In Her Shoes” workshop at Gloucester Library. Last spring, Jingluski said the first workshop was hosted in Williamsburg with faith leaders across the community. After the resounding positive response to the program, they decided to do it again.
The goal of the event is to help participants understand the difficult choices victims have to make through an interactive workshop. The participant will receive a scenario and have to make a decision based on choices offered to them, such as going to social services or telling a family member.
Based on the decision, the participant will be sent to a corresponding table where they make another decision. Eventually, the individual will go through a series of tables based on decisions until they reach the end where they learn about the result of their choices.
There are 17 different scenarios pulled from real-life examples across the county, Jingluski said. The scenario she wrote is about an older woman whose husband has dementia and becomes abusive.
“In this case, [abuse] hadn’t happened before,” she said. “She understands that the man who is hurting her is not the man she married. It’s not an easy situation to just leave.”
Jingluski said the intended audience is anyone who wants to participate, but specifically those in public service. First responders, social services workers and police officers have to interact with victims on a regular basis and it’s important to understand their thought process, she said.
Through the program, the participants will learn what it’s like to have to handle the repercussions of their decisions, such as bringing their children to a women’s shelter and making sure they have the resources they need now that they’re no longer in the home.
“The outcomes of each scenario are based on a person’s decisions,” she said. “Different people will make different decisions, and sometimes it can result in something like a fatality.”
Jingluski said that the scenarios might be triggering to some people so there are counselors on hand to help participants process the activity if needed.
Once participants complete the activity, Jingluski said there is a recap where participants sit down and discuss what domestic violence looks like and have the opportunity to ask counselors any questions.
Jingluski said she became interested in helping end the cycle of domestic violence after seeing it happen to her friend. One of the things she noticed during that time is people might not fully understand what a victim is going through.
“Denial is a very powerful thing,” she said. “Though you might be fortunate enough not to have experienced it in your life, it helps you appreciate what a healthy relationship is and that if you think someone is suffering, there are subtle ways to help.”
Abuse is not always physical, she said, and the mental health issues that come with the power dynamic in abusive relationships can be difficult for anyone to process.
Part of the goal of the program is to help people recognize signs of domestic violence in those around them. Jingluski said this can mean noticing someone has withdrawn from activities or makes excuses for certain things.
The program educates participants on how to help victims cope while making decisions.
“If they look too far into the past, they’ll develop depression and if they look too far into the future, they’ll develop anxiety,” she said. “It’s about offering empowerment that these decisions can be taken one step at a time.”
The event will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Gloucester Main Library and is open to anyone around Hampton Roads.
For more information, visit the Avalon Center online.