1. Falling asleep and waking up to the smell of blooming lilacs outside the open window.
2. Planning a girls-getaway to celebrate turning the dirty thirty next year.
3. Thinking that New Orleans might be perfect. A little Bourbon Street, a few beignets, some Garden District, architecture, old cemeteries, good girlfriends…yummy.
4. Knowing that I need to try on my “real” suit to see if it still fits to wear for NYSCC. Knowing it won’t fit. Not really caring.
5. The truly insightful parts of the CASA training so far.
Yesterday the director of the supervised visitation center was our guest speaker. She specializes in advocating for domestic violence victims and gave a good talk on how even though our primary task as CASAs is to advocate for the children, we’ll also have plenty of opportunity to guide family members to get help for having been victimized or witness to violence within the family.
One of the activities was a role-playing type game. She gave all nine of us trainees a handful of paper strips, yellow and green. Green represented your cash; yellow your dignity. She read off descriptions of the situation at home. First dear hubby is just sort of a control freak, not giving us full access to money even though we work full time, not wanting us to go out for evening playdates with the kids, etc. Then he gets physical, grabbing by the arm, shoving, etc. Then the beloved family cat disappears, later to be found nearly dead…in the freezer. [yikes] At each turn, you can decide to go to a hotel, rent an apartment, or go to the shelter. Going to and staying at each place costs money or dignity or both. Going home costs nothing, other than the obvious. Most of us left the first time he laid a hand on us (only one left at the first red flag – controlling money and time), and we were split between trying to stay in the hotel, the apartment, or the shelter, but we all ended up having no other option than to go home. It sucked. I would like to think that it’s not realistic. We were all vehement (though we weren’t even supposed to be talking) that we would have other options and resources (friends, new jobs and new bank accounts, we would be able to pay the rent!), and WE would. It was so obvious that we were nine middle class white women that have self-esteem, educations, support systems and healthy relationships. None of us took dude’s shit, because it’s unlikely that we’d ever find ourselves in that situation.
Every argument we presented was thrown back in our faces. We’d have new jobs now, with new bank accounts – but we never went home to collect our SS cards & birth certificates. He’d canceled our credit cards. We had no childcare. By the time the shelter got us on waiting lists for housing, food stamps, childcare, and whatnot, our time allowed for staying there was up. Legal aid had denied us because we made just too much money – on paper. Those of us that hired attorneys spent our last dollars on retainer fees and then couldn’t pay to actually file for divorce. We were all nine left standing at the shelter, no money, no dignity. No choice but to go home.
It was very difficult to try to put myself in the shoes of a woman who didn’t have a support system, an education, her own money. The only thing missing was for the director to stop everything and come take extra cash at each turn to feed our drug problems. It was so frustrating. I’m not one to really ever give in or accept it if you were to tell me I have only one option and that I’m not going to like it. But some situations can’t be as easily manipulated, especially if you don’t have the tools required.
The whole experience was empowering and yet unnerving. The nine of us in that room were then that much more motivated and committed to the idea that people helping people can change things. Maybe not for the current generation of abusers, but for their children. We can’t save every one of them, maybe not even half. But each one that breaks or is removed from the cycle is one to the good. That was the empowering part. The unnerving part is realizing that I’m in for a rude awakening. I’m very much a middle class white woman with an education and a support system and my own money and self-esteem. I’m going to see an awful lot of quite the opposite. While I know I can handle it, I just pray I handle it well.