For some of us, domestic violence is an issue that we learn about from other people’s stories, experiences and statistics. For many others, it is a traumatizing part of life that is hard to forget, that is hard to express to friends and family. Even more for children of young ages who might have a hard time finding the right words to express themselves, it can leave them anxious, upset or even silent. This is why the YWCA, in partnership with The Junior League of Birmingham, developed the Children in Crisis program, to help children better understand and cope with their emotions and to prevent this learned generational behavior of violence.
The YWCA launched Children in Crisis (CIC) in 1994 to aid children and teens who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes. CIC offers weekly support groups to address topics such as how to be safe in an unsafe home, self-esteem and anger management. The difference made by CIC can be easily observed in the participants as well as the volunteers and teachers. Nellah McGough, Chair of CIC and long-standing member of Birmingham’s Junior League, explains her involvement with CIC: “It has been such an honor and pleasure to work with the staff at the YW and the children in CIC. I feel that we, as volunteers, are helping to provide a safe place for the children to express their feelings and to help process what they’re going through at home. We also provide strong role models for them to observe. Most importantly, we provide a fun environment for them to just be kids! We all realize that we are helping to break the cycle of domestic violence and are humbled to be a part of that process.”
Since dealing with and discussing domestic violence can be difficult for anyone at any age, it can be more effective to find non-verbal outlets of expression. CIC encourages participants to express themselves through practicing visual arts. This month, the children at the CIC group created works for the “Feeling Safe at Home” project. The children were asked to draw what it’s like to feel safe at home. Some drew brightly colored houses with well-kept flowers and sunny skies; others drew portraits of happy families. But children can often allow themselves to be more honest than adults are willing to be. Some of the children drew families fleeing to buildings with large red crosses, signifying that feeling safe may include leaving the very home at which they should feel safe. These and other pieces of art created by children living with domestic violence will be a part of the “Feeling Safe at Home” project, a clothes line art presentation, featured in the lobby of the downtown building as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
We thank Nellah, The Junior League of Birmingham and CIC volunteers, along with United Way, for their continued critical support with CIC and the YWCA.
A way you can spread awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month is through the Purple Purse campaign funded by The Allstate Foundation. The Purple Purse campaign is an easy and enjoyable way to raise funds for the YWCA and to open dialogue with others about domestic violence. Go online to www.PurplePurse.com and use the code 01007 to register this purse.
If you would also like to help break the cycle of violence, donate or become a volunteer with the YWCA by clicking here or calling (205) 322-9922.