The scope of domestic violence is vast and many times hidden behind closed doors leaving victims feeling trapped with nowhere to turn. But for Megan,* enough was enough. She courageously began planning how she and her children would escape from her abuser months in advance. It all started with a phone call to Family Shelter Service’s 24-hour hotline. Megan shared her story with a counselor who was able to coach her on the safest way to get out of the violent situation and where she could go for safety.
Lauren DeSimone, Director of Advancement at Family Shelter Service, based in the western suburb of Downers Grove, said that brave phone call was the first big step in Megan’s journey to free herself from her abuser. However, due to the state budget crisis, the organization was facing its own battle, including the possibility of cuts to vital programs that save the lives of people like Megan and her family.
“The situation was dire,” said DeSimone. “Without the support of United Way, more victims of domestic violence could have died.” DeSimone explained that due to the lack of funding, the shelter’s resources and capacity to accept victims was severely limited, forcing them to turn away almost 15,000 people. This means many victims inevitably returned to the abusive relationships they were trying to flee. We at United Way of Metro Chicago fight for the safety of all individuals, and partner with agencies working to empower those impacted by the epidemic of domestic violence. With United Way’s support, Family Shelter Service was able to not only maintain, but expand life saving services, including building more rooms to house abuse victims and hiring more counselors to address clients’ mental health needs. DeSimone explains that support is needed now more than ever. “In 2017 (approximately) five women lost their lives as a result of domestic violence in DuPage County.” With the number of fatal cases of domestic violence increasing, it’s vital that there are strong social services in place to protect victims like Megan’s family.
On that cold November morning, Megan hastily bundled up her two boys and began the journey that would change the course of their future. Once her family was comfortably settled at Family Shelter Service’s facility, Megan was able to start rebuilding her life. She sought the expert assistance of one of the organization’s Court Advocates who accompanied her to the courthouse, where she was granted an order of protection from her abuser. Megan and her children also participated in group and individual counseling. She was able to focus on healing, knowing that her children were finally safe and able to sleep without fear.
It’s the work of United Way partner organizations like Family Shelter Service that truly makes a difference in our community. Cuts to social services can greatly impact an organization’s ability to continue providing vital life-saving services and the result could be catastrophic for people like Megan who have nowhere else to turn.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence call the Family Shelter Service hotline at 630-469-5650.
Make a gift today to support United Way’s safety net impact work.
*Name has been changed.