In Support of the Victims
The Abuse/Domestic Violence Program at AAMC expanded this year to offer around-the-clock care for victims of abuse. AAMC is the first hospital in Maryland to provide 24/7 coverage by a Domestic Violence Program with paid staff. Only two other hospitals in the state even have domestic violence programs.
The staff of AAMC’s Abuse/ Domestic Violence Program use only their first names to protect the victims they help and to protect themselves from abusers who may stalk them. Co-director Nicole said, “We’re really excited to have recently hired our on-call team that expands our program to provide services around the clock for all departments. We are proud that AAMC is willing to support our efforts. We still rely on grant money in our program, but are very excited about the ability to offer 24/7 support.” Patricia Saunders, R.N., director of nursing for the Emergency Department, said, “Sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence don’t seem to keep a schedule and never take a holiday. Being able to respond to a victim’s needs 24/7 is critical if we are going to make a difference in someone’s life. As a team we are committed to that goal.”
The Abuse/Domestic Violence Program is housed in the Emergency Department, where the domestic violence team responds to calls from nurses and other hospital staff from all departments who suspect that a patient is a victim of abuse. The Domestic Violence staff works with victims in a number of ways, primarily by acting as support and advocate for them. “We can give the victims safety planning education,” said Nicole. “This is done with sensitivity to each victim’s situation, and is completely confidential,” she said.
With the additional staff, the program has expanded to assisting in child abuse, vulnerable abuse cases and sexual assault/rape cases. Since January, the number of
referrals to Abuse/Domestic Violence has more than doubled, from about 25 to 65 a month.
Nicole said while the support from the hospital goes a long way, the program still relies heavily on grants and donations. The program frequently needs gift certificates to grocery stores and clothing and toy stores, and also prepaid phone and gas cards. For more information or to donate items, please contact the AAMC Foundation at 443-481-4747.
Breaking Free from Domestic Abuse
Martha is in her early 50s, but feels more like a teenager. After 36 years of marriage to an abusive husband, with the help of the Abuse/Domestic Violence Program at AAMC, she has started a new life.
Now Martha wants to tell other victims of abuse her story so they will take control of their lives and not waste years. She said, “I was 18 and pregnant when I married.
I thought it was a fairy tale come true because my parents died when I was young and I was raised by my grandparents. The first time John smacked me it was because I hadn’t ironed his shirt right.”
Martha continued, “Everyone thought he was a nice guy. He paid the bills and gave me spending money. But he treated me so badly. Never broke any bones, just gave me bruises that I could hide and told me never to tell anybody. We had three boys, and John never hit me in front of them, but he’d abuse me verbally. Sometimes he’d just tell me to sit in a chair and not move, or throw a plate of spaghetti at me if he didn’t like it,” she said. “I was miserable. Nobody knew. I was too afraid to leave. And what’s more, I didn’t know how to leave, where to go or what to do.”
For more information about AAMC’s Abuse/Domestic Violence Program, call 443-481-1209.
It took a tragedy for Martha to realize she didn’t have to take the abuse. “My son died in a car accident 12 years ago. That was the turning point for me. I realized I survived the worst thing that could happen to me, so how bad could leaving John be? I left him the following year but didn’t stay gone long. He was so sad and told me he’d change,” she said.
“He tried to change, but he couldn’t do it. Before long, we were right back where we were before, except I was standing up to him more. But, boy, were there consequences,” she said.
A few years later, her husband was brought to the ED at AAMC where Martha first ran into members of the domestic violence team. On a subsequent visit for John, who was suffering from psychological problems, one of the medical team helping him had suspicions that he was abusing Martha. “And they asked me if he was hurting me. I thought, ?Here are strangers, and ? oh my God ? my family doesn’t suspect the abuse, but these people know.’ Well, that broke open the door. I was introduced to the counselors who have been my main support in breaking out. I’ve learned so much in
counseling. They listen. They gave me literature, and showed me that I didn’t have to live the way I was. There are programs to help me. They made me see that I could get
a job, that I could move out and be independent.”
Martha is on her own now. She has a job and spends happy hours with her grandchildren. She still sees the counselors and participates in group sessions for other victims of abuse.
She said, “I don’t understand these young girls. When I was their age, you didn’t call the police, you just took it. There was no place to turn. Now there are lots of ways to get help. I listen to them say, ?But he loves me. I must have done something bad for him to hit me.’ I just want to scream, ?No! You’ve not done anything wrong and you can get out.’ But I understand they have to have the strength to make the decision themselves. And that’s where the counselors come in. They listen. And they show the victims that there are programs to help. There’s education, transportation, free birth control, or people who will take care of your babies while you work. And most important, there are people like the counselors at AAMC who can help you find it all.”
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