Annette McDonald

Annette McDonald: Recognizing and Seeking Help for Domestic Violence (#290)

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Our guest today: Annette McDonald

Annette McDonald founded an organization called Access Family Services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Transcript

Annette McDonald – powered by Happy Scribe

We go. Hey, everyone, this is Fei from Feisworld Media, and I can’t believe I scheduled this kind of last minute and have Annette McDonald agreed to chat with me and have this part to be recorded. So thank you so much, Annette, for joining me today. I appreciate this recording so much.

Thank you so much, Faith, for having me. I am so excited that we’re getting a chance to catch up. As spontaneous as it is, I look forward to having this conversation with my friend.

Oh, I love that. And so funny. Before I hit record, I promise this is going to be like two friends hang out at Starbucks. I know that my intro at the beginning sounds a little bit formal just because when our listeners kind of tune in either on YouTube or, you know, on the podcast side, I just want to make sure that there’s certain energy as part of this. But first, let me briefly introduce you and our encounter. For people who don’t know how I met Annette, the story is just incredible. That was during my 2018 documentary shoot, actually, right before interviewing Seth, Godin and I found Annette. We became like fast friends and kept in touch over the years. And little did I know, as a podcaster, I was so intrigued by her story as an entrepreneur. And in this episode, we’re going to talk about her as an entrepreneur and as a how do I call it, an avid thrifter, how you’re able to teach thrifting to women who have experienced domestic violence and living in shelters. But most importantly, what triggered this conversation, as crazy as it sounds, as I got so deep into made on Netflix Maid and without giving away the plot at all, and it’s just such an unbelievable story.

My mom was there watching it the whole time with Chinese subtitles and we binge watched the whole thing. And let’s just say when it comes to episode eight, it was just so triggering for me that I had to reach out to you directly. And then during this month of October, which is Awareness Month for women who experience domestic violence, I think we really need to connect and make this issue highly visible. So that’s a long introduction. Thank you, Anna, for being here.

Thank you so much, Faith. Thank you so much again for having me. And as you said, I’m so happy you reached out to me during this time of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And each time we can shed awareness and spread the light of this subject, that is so it’s still often just kept in silence and thrives in secrecy as well. So each time we get an opportunity to talk about domestic violence, I’m always one to look forward to that and to shed whatever light we can on it. So thank you again for bringing this topic to light in this month.

It is so necessary, if I can be super frank, I have the privilege to meet you to have a very deep in conversation back in, I think, early 2019, even 2018, and I got to learn so much. But I didn’t realize the depth of the issue, frankly. And you brought me to a whole new level that I never experienced before, personally. I don’t know, at least I don’t know at the service level, nobody ever revealed that to me whether my friends or my colleagues have ever experienced domestic violence. Like you said, this thing, this issue thrives in secrecy, and I just don’t know anyone. I’ve never had this conversation. But then watching the film, it’s not a documentary. It is a short, limited series on Netflix and just kind of brought like kind of just kind of feels like it pushed me over the edge to have such a strong desire to learn more and how easy it is for women in particular to fall in the trap and not even realize that what domestic violence is. They believe, for instance, let’s get into it. To help people who watch this, to understand, people believe they have to get beaten up, bruised.

It has to be like, incredibly violence against them. But turns out it also includes, please tell us clearly.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up because those are some of the misconceptions about domestic violence that you’re typically coming in or you’re seeing the typical, which is not very typical of black eyed person or bruised or battered. But domestic violence, it’s about power and control. It impacts one physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially is huge. The economic cost of domestic violence is huge as well. Those are some of the things that you often don’t talk about. We don’t hear about those coercive, controlling patterns right. Of people who are feeling threatened even if they open the door to leave their house. You’re not hearing about the fear that really causes people to stay in relationships at times. So it’s incredible when we hear just about the physical impact of domestic violence and not the other pieces in context, which is the psychological, emotional, the manipulative behaviors that keep people in fear of even leaving that relationship.

Yeah, exactly. Let’s get in there deeper. I feel like there’s a parallel to when people hear about sexual abuse. I mean, literally, people don’t talk about it, and they think about intercourse, right? Like force intercourse. But it’s as crazy as it goes. There’s so many steps before that could happen. And that’s one form. There are many other forms of sexual abuse that unfortunately, men and women are just completely unaware of. And I also recently learned that domestic violence doesn’t just happen to women, it happens to men, and even in same sex relationships or otherwise. And it’s very revealing. And watching this, I realize what I want to surface and to discuss as someone who I have not experienced domestic violence myself, but I get to learn that it doesn’t start with a punch. It doesn’t start with very extreme scenarios, as opposed to it’s almost like it’s boiling in a very silent way. I think about the metaphor of, like, boiling a frog, like, just turn it up just enough, the frog doesn’t even know. And then the next thing you know, you are trapped. You can’t get out. So what are some of the signs that people should be aware of as a sign of domestic violence?

Yeah. So first, let me just say remembering domestic violence is a pattern of controlling coercive behaviors that leads to, again, the physical assault, the sexual assault, psychological, all those parts. Right. Also, one of the things that we would need to remember as well, it is a crime, right? It is a crime. You have dating violence, you have domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking as well. And when you talk about some of the subtle things, right, that leads up to some of the more violent acts. Stalking and stalking is something that we just say and stalking. But stalking is big. Yeah, right.

Scary.

It’s very scary. So we need to remember that. And you talk about some of the signs, some of those red flags. Sometimes there aren’t signs in front of you that you can recognize. Right. But then there are signs that those patterns of who are you hanging out with? Little questions like that. So why do you have to go to your mom’s house so often? These are subtle things. So why do you have to hang out with Faith every Friday? And you’re not thinking about that? Well, why do you need to warrant you coming home? It’s 06:00, you should be home. It’s six five. You’re not you’re not thinking about that because you’re with an intimate partner and you’re not thinking that it’s going to lead into other things. You’re thinking it’s just normal, right? Someone saying, someone questioning you. Someone saying, well, don’t you think that dress is a little too short for you to wear? And you’re not thinking about that. You’re thinking, oh, this person cures what I look like going outside. Well, in fact, it can become another thing. Well, why are you hearing where you’re here, this way? And so it just leads to things that are subtle until it becomes you notice a pattern, until you become fearful.

If you don’t wear that or if you wear that, then what’s going to happen to me?

Yeah.

Right? Tiny little things that leads up and can lead up to very threatening conversations.

Right. You know what the crazy thing is I’m learning about from the film, again is the support system is often not there. And that’s the scary part, because I feel so privileged to say this, that if something that I don’t feel quite right, I have someone to go to. I have more than one person to go to, to say, hey, it could be a female friend. It could be a guy friend to say, this doesn’t quite feel right to me. Maybe something as subtle as, like, I don’t know, an employment contract or something that I deal with on an everyday basis. Oh, is a long guy charging too much? And can I have a better deal somewhere? But I realized that when watching this series, I realized a lot of the times could be this woman’s mother, girlfriend or sister or aunt who say, you’re going to be okay. And that, to me, that was the most hurtful thing, is for families who would know you prior to having this domestic partner. They should understand. They should be able to see, but they don’t. And then sometimes they don’t. Instead of pulling you out, they push you to the bottom, and you can’t it’s so hard to fight.

It makes you question yourself, your own judgment. Could we maybe chat about that too?

Yeah. And again, because at times, it’s an intimate, intimate partner relationship, though it happens. It can be a person you have a child in common with. It can be someone you’re living with. Domestic partners. And of course, we mentioned it crosses all boundaries, right. Religion, LGBTQIA communities. This is a crime that happens to in all sorts of walks of life and all sorts of lifestyles. No matter what, it’s happened to someone. You know, there’s a stats. One in three women will be impacted by domestic violence in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people. And when you’re talking about a crime that is so close to you, it’s so close. It’s the minister that everybody knows, that the mom knows, and he is the pillar of the community. It’s the doctor, it’s the teacher, and you’re not expecting that. Right. But the person who’s actually living in that situation, the person who’s going through that power and control, that control in their lives, and we’re looking from the outside. We’re looking at it and saying, oh, no, that’s him. I can’t believe that you don’t see it.

You’ve never even witnessed it, possibly.

Yeah. You’re not witnessing it. And then you’re there telling a mom or telling a sister that he’s doing this. They’re not wanting to believe that because everybody wants to see that side. That’s good. They don’t want to see that you’re being hurt. And that can be the most difficult thing. So it’s important that we know how to respond when someone comes to us, a family member or a friend comes to us and say, I’m going through this, it’s important to listen and to believe and to validate and just simply say, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. How can I help?

Yeah.

How can I help? Rather than judging?

Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? We come to judge people so easily, so quickly. It becomes that old tape that keeps you know, it’s just muscle memory, and I forgot. I mean, I kind of come right in, and I will leave your contact information below. But Annette, you founded Axis Family Services. AFS. That’s how you remember it. AF s. And I always swap the two the two letters Nj.org, and it’s part of her name and signature right now. And there’s a hotline. I think what’s interesting is we’re talking about the educational part of this too, is that people are like, am I experiencing this or is she going through this right now? So instead of guessing, you do have a hotline and you have something, you have someone. Could you talk to us about the hotline and what does it do and how can we not flooded? What is a real situation people should really call out for?

No, the hotline is there 24 hours a day.

Wow.

So part of the services that Access Family Services administer is one the 24 Hours hotline. And I’ll give the hotline number as well. So we have the 24 hours hotline. We have a safe house that’s also in an undisclosed location where we serve up to 15 women and children. We also added a new program to our array of services mirrored of services that we have, which includes a transitional housing program as well. The transitional housing program is that program where if a woman is in the shelter and she needs a little bit more time to get additional counseling, help get additional job training, she can also access that once she’s transitioned to that transitional living program as well. So it just gives a little bit more time to get to that independence and selfsufficiency that’s so necessary after leaving a domestic violence relationship. And we found that it is probably one of the best things for helping survivors get on their feet as well. So the hotline, as I mentioned before, the number is 862-444-3126. And that hotline is accessible 24 hours a day. It’s open to families, it’s open to friends who may know people who are in the situation of experiencing some intimate partner violence, some domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, whatever it might be.

And you might need to call so that you can talk with a trained advocate on the phone to talk about safety planning. It might be safety planning if they’re leaving the relationship or safety planning if they are staying in the relationship and planning on leaving as well. So the hotline is the first step to getting the information and talking to a trained advocate. And I encourage anyone who is experiencing any sort or form of intimate partner violence to please reach out.

Yeah, please reach out. Guys, years ago, I interviewed Samaritans, you know, the suicide hotline. I cannot emphasize enough what an endeavor an organization has to take on to make sure that somebody’s there and it’s available. And so in that I was just wondering, in order to have that system and that mechanism set up, how many callers do you need and are these volunteers? How many calls do you guys get I know that changes, especially during COVID just adds another layer of complexity on top.

Yeah, absolutely. COVID certainly impacted our services. Now we’re serving more victims than even before as well, which is when people reach out for help. We like to think we’re trying to at least impact saving one life at a time, providing some information so that people can get the chance to explore options, options for safety, options for housing, etc. The hotline is manned by staff, sometimes staff and volunteers. 24 hours, as I said, 365 days. We’re never off. There’s always someone there to take that call of urgent need or information. It’s there for information and referral as well.

Yeah, I remember you mentioned there are 15 beds in this place, actually. What is the proper name? Is it called a shelter? It’s not a shelter.

It’s a safe house. Shelter, yeah. But it’s a safe house for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Wow.

So yes. And our safe house is called Sylvia’s Place.

Sylvia’s Place. What happens in the cases of having 15 beds? And I can’t I mean, think about it for a second. We think of 15, like, oh, it should be 50, should be 500. It takes a lot of work to create a place and think about our own homes, how to make it comfortable. And we’re going to get into some details because people think I can’t speak to all safe houses or shelters, but the place that you’re describing, it just to me, it’s filled with love, warmth, and there are other shelters I’ve been to especially for domestic violence. It’s just, wow, what a what a lovely place to be in. Paintings, toys, iPads, and like, you know, might not be the newest addition or versions, but you could see just the care, what goes into it before we get into the setup of it. What happens when people what happens if people need to stay a lot longer and the beds are so limited versus you having to turn people away? Like, how does that work?

Not a lot of beds for the need, but it’s more than what we had before. Right. It’s a place where 15 women and children have access to safety temporarily for 30, 60, some over 90 days and more if our spaces are filled. We also here in New Jersey have other shelters that are specific to domestic violence that we can reach out to and call and of course, coordinate services between those other programs that are in New Jersey. So we’re fortunate to have those other counties that have at least one shelter in each of the counties. If we are full, we can definitely call and try to get somebody else to help. Now we’re utilizing some of the hotels as well. Wow. Especially during COVID Just some specific hotels so that we can continue to provide services and serve survivors, especially if they’re impacted by COVID, with infection, et cetera, et cetera. We’re fortunate that we have this opportunity during the pandemic to do that.

Wow. And I want to talk about things that people don’t think about. Like when you leave your home. Right. Like, I live in a very comfortable home. I made it exactly the way I wanted to be. I bought a home recently, about a year ago. And thank you when I travel.

Congratulations.

Thank you. It’s so exciting. I know not having this compared to the days where living in dorms, like, traveling as an international student and then didn’t feel like I actually had a home that’s one level, but actually losing your home and have to flee and have to not take anything. Perhaps just your car, if you’re lucky, in some pieces of clothing, maybe just the ones that you’re currently wearing. None of your digital devices. Now think about that for a second. And now you’re possibly with a young child, not someone who could take care of you. Oh, my goodness. And it just adds up from there. So can we talk about what usually are there in the shelter? And then you being so artistic, creative, and that’s what our podcast is about. I think you really exercise your creativity to the fullest in a place that’s called a safe house or shelter. Let’s dive in.

Yeah. So having a space where it feels first of all, our services are also traumainformed. Meeting survivors where they are not judging, understanding how culture intersects as well with what they’re going through, race, et cetera. We’re very, very intentional in terms of the design of the shelter and that it is a place where they feel it’s a homelike setting. So I remember I’ll give you the story. I remember this child walking in the first time in our shelter, and he looked up and he’s like, this is the shelter. This is my bathroom. Right? They’re coming from all over, all walks of life. You don’t know their experience, but when they come in there and they feel it looks like a grandma’s house or it looks like their auntie house, that helps them get adjusted to a space where it’s all new to them. Right. Mom is worried. Mom is worried how her child is going to adjust to the space. She’s doing the best that she can for her children. And so it was intentional for us to make sure that it is a comfortable space. Their rooms are comfortable. The bathrooms are comfortable. The staff greeting them is compassionate.

And most of our I’m happy to say that we have amazing teams of volunteers and staff that actually are living their purpose in helping these families. And I have to tell you, when I see especially for me, when I see a family who comes into the safe house and they’re inspired to move on and just get a life of their own free from violence, I know that I’m doing the right thing. I know that I’m living my purpose and making sure that these families are safe. Those kids, when I see them and they’re smiling and they’re running around, they’re playing with their toys, and they feel safe, that gives me joy.

I thousand percent believe it. During watching the whole series, I talked to my mom. I said, you know, I have a friend named Annette who is I can tell. And I said, I see her. I speak to her for five minutes. I know that she would have no problem making it a Wall Street. She could be a banker. She could be a lawyer. You could be a doctor or whatever you wanted to be. I’m serious. That may not be your favorite thing to be, but you’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur and actually make money, which is still a big part of your life. But instead, you choose this path that is with a lot of challenges, but it’s also with a lot of rewards. That is indescribable, because recently, one of my projects is about childhood cancer, and it’s extremely challenging. I know a number of these 1620 year old young women they love they spend nights and weekends servicing these families, like, bringing them food, bring toys, taught you reading stories. And I say, I asked them, like, is that a cool thing to do? Are you respected by your peers?

Like, no. They think we’re such dorks, right? Why wouldn’t you want to go to the mall with your friends, like, during the weekend? And she says, I just can’t. Like, the amount of joy and not just significance, but joy’s, connection, contribution that you experience for such a project, you can step away. This is, like, precisely my mom’s like, I totally get it. I get why. And that is so into this. I want to, like, talk about I realized I always, like, talk a lot, and I can move on to breeze.

Okay, now, it’s interesting you say that question, like, why do this? Why not go to Wall Street and do XYZ? You know, I say to myself sometimes it’s interesting because my mom and I’m not sure if I share this I might have shared this with you anyway, my mom is a 40 year survivor of domestic violence herself. She was let me say she was. And growing up, I watched what she had gone through and wondering, how could I help her? But through all of her challenges, faith, she survived. She thrived. She helped other women and children stay safe in her own home. That’s what she did. That’s what I saw. But not knowing that one day I would be doing this work and beginning with volunteering, I realized that my passion for this work was where I needed to be. You know, 19 years later, 20 years later, I founded Access Family Services. It’s another entrepreneurial path, but it was a necessary one that I know it was where I needed to be. So, thankfully, with the community, with wonderful people who knew how to to help put this program together, we were able to afford, of course, the services that we’re doing now and that I’m a part of and that I love.

And you talked about Thrifting at the beginning? Yeah, I absolutely love the fact that, yes, when we were developing this program, thrifting was a big part because we had to decorate the shelter, and I brought my passion and what do you say, my love for Thrifting into doing this work? My hobby?

Exercise your creative side on a dime.

Durpnasium. Right? Exercise your creative side on a dime.

And I want to like, I’m so glad I took a pause. I get excited, and I tend to ask a lot of questions. Usually people are like, could you break that down? But what you said about your mom, who lived through 40 years, had such experience, and you were part of it, and watching the series made me realize how much of an impact that could have on people who witnessed that. In particular, you’re not just a friend. You are her daughter. So you lived it. Where is it triggering for you sometimes for you to, like, say, well, I’m still done with this, and I never want to even look back again? And why do you instead basically rent Worth the Fire?

Interestingly. I know when I first began working as a volunteer, that was really understanding myself and understanding what I experienced as a child, what I experienced watching my family, it was important for me to really realize that I can be triggered. Right. And if I don’t get help and talk with someone and really becoming full aware and full disclosure of what I had gone through, I feel at some point that I may have remained stuck and resentful. Of course, the harm door my mom’s husband at that time, but I refuse to allow that piece of me to control me. It added to who I am today. So it’s not a situation that I can look back and say I regret or have it hold me back, per se. I used all of that history and that experience to propel me to do what I need to do today. And all of those experiences have shaped my life and my life as an advocate.

One of the recent podcast guests kind of taught me something along the line of don’t waste the pain losing. He lost his brother to cancer, and he created an incredible film. I think it’s called my Brother Jordan. And what I’m hearing from you is the same thing you experience firsthand, you have all this knowledge, and you’re able to build from that, build from the pain. And I’m sure to a certain degree, it’s also comforting. And it could feel like a relief, almost, that you get to do this. But may I ask, what are some of the steps over the years you’ve taken to make yourself feel better, to get back on your feet again. I know that sometimes people don’t realize it. Sometimes it comes and goes, and it’s not always just smooth sailing to the east or whatever. And did you inquire, like, therapy or meditation or whatever that may be?

So for me, meditation is really, really big. I meditate every day. I do not think I miss a day. I meditate. Of course, spirituality is absolutely essential in my life, and I tend to be a pretty upbeat, positive person. And knowing my mom would say to me, no matter what, it just seemed like she would say, go after your goal. March forth towards your goals, towards your dreams. Keep going, don’t stop. And throughout all of that, I know that her intention was for us to build up our self esteem, have that positive attitude in spite of what we were experiencing. She believed in so many different things, including education as well. For me, recognizing when I needed a support system, and that includes a therapist, there’s no bypassing that. For me, when I need to talk to someone outside of whatever it is that I’m going through, then I seek help. There’s no shame in seeking help when needed. So through therapies through prayers, through meditation and eating as healthy as I can, that helps me to stay focused and to get the work done that I need to get done.

I appreciate that. I appreciate you sharing this. There is no shame. I think people who have gone through all sorts of traumas go and growing up and some of which are more noticeable or more less popular, let’s just say, than some of the other. So seeking help is absolutely essential. So I realize I don’t want to just brush right through this thrifting part. To me, it’s not what I’m seeing. Like, I’m a very visual person and watching the series and having donated so much of my clothes to various shelters in Boston, you know, buying and contributing, you know, I feel like sometimes my contribution is so insignificant, but really, it can accumulate. As an individual, you can make a contribution and positive impact. Absolutely. And by the way, it’s yearend for anybody who wants to think about taxations and all that gifting, now’s the time to do it, guys. Yeah, right?

Can I just stop and say publicly, yay for you. You packed up boxes and sent to our shelter for the families there, and they were very appreciative and fabulous items. So, yes, it is coming up on year end, so that donation is tax deductible as well. So please feel free. Anyone who’s watching.

Yeah, I know that when you I mean, not that nobody should desire to, like, you got to send me photos, but you were so lovely. You didn’t take pictures of any of your clients, which I understand why, but you were texting me about, like, your clients really enjoying picking. Out, really. I couldn’t see any pictures, but I thought to myself, like, I could just visualize, imagine, you know, women with their young daughters and sons going through the pile and finding even just that one thing they like, and that really warms my heart. And for me to go into my closet and say, I’m just one person, why do I have 100, 200 items? I’ll never wear them all. And yet while I’m doing this with other people who are freezing as we approach this New England weather or tristate area, I mean, it’s hard for people to imagine in warmer climates, like what it means right now to be homeless, to be without homes. But also there’s a scene, I love that scene so much in this film, which is when these women could go into a little area where they can, quote, unquote, shop for clothes.

And it’s all color coordinated and very, very well organized. And do you guys have a place? Like, how do you you actually hand out, like yeah, so we do.

And I remember when your box came, right? Oh, my God. Do you remember?

That enough. Six or seven.

And we like, £30. And we all sat down in our living room at the shelter, and they were trying on the shoes and the boots, and they were trying on the clothes and picking, and they had such a good time doing that. And it can take them away from some of their other challenges at the time that they’re going through. It brings joy. So it’s not just a little donation to them. It means a lot more. Right? I just want to make sure that that’s clear. It made such a big difference. But we do have a room that we have clothing, and at times, women can pick out whatever it is that they may need. They may need an outfit for a job interview, a blouse, a scarf, whatever it is, we try to have it for them, and that would be the perfect thing. But it’s something that they need right away to get them prepared for job readiness. That’s a big piece of our program as well, just in case a woman has an interview to go to while they’re residing at the safe house or even the transitional housing program into the.

Career part and the entrepreneurial part. And I just have one last question related to the clothing pieces. As people are listening, watching this, what are some of the items as we sit right now, like, end of October, the weather is getting really rainy. It’s going to drop below 40 pretty soon. But without me suspecting, assuming what it is, what are some of the items that you guys need the most at the moment? Clothing.

Yeah. Sweaters, light jackets, coats, of course, socks. Many people don’t think about that, but socks and pajamas in the safe house, you have to always maintain something on your feet, right? So we don’t often think about that, but children’s socks is also necessary. Anything a suit that a woman may be able to wear for job interviews as well. Right. Boys clothing, which is oftentimes very limited in terms of what we get in donation as well.

Often for girls, but not often with boys clothing.

Yes, exactly. And gift cards are always good. They’re able to go out and buy what they need.

Yeah. Wow. This is incredible. Is there an address, like Donate? I see there’s a Donate button on the website right now. Yeah, that’s what I did. Is there an address, physical address?

Yes. If you look on the website afsnj.org, there’s also a physical address.

Gateway center. Got it. This is very handy. Okay, so I want to respect your time on that. Do you have, like, another 510 minutes for us to talk about Career?

Absolutely.

Absolutely. Let’s talk about teaching. There are a few areas, and I know that I can probably talk about them forever, but what comes to mind, as you mentioned, Career, that women have to go on interviews, which means they need Internet access, they need to dress the part, and they might even have questions. They might even need coaching, because for them to say, I’m very fearful of interviews. But also you talk about the way that you talk about thrifting you teach these women and children how to be selfreliant, how to be independent, how to understand money, which is frankly, I never learned anything about money until I was 20 years old and now from my parents. So can we maybe talk about those areas together, separately, as you see fit?

Yeah. So you’re not the only one. We hear these money mess, and we never knew anything about budgeting, et cetera. Right. So it’s important for us, we understand that most of the families that we have coming into our services are impacted by financial abuse when 99% of the women we serve have some story of being impacted by economic and financial abuse. And economics is important, and it’s important for everyone to realize that. And domestic violence costs people lose days off from work, right, due to being abused. That’s a fact. And once they come and some people, of course, we talk about some of the women who come in, they’re given sometimes less than $30 at times to feed a family of four. It impacts their credits. It impacts all parts of their lives, period. So when the women come in, we begin at times, we meet them where they are. And when they’re ready to discuss money management or issues relating to their finances, we meet them where they are. We stick with them and help them to develop a spending plan, if that’s their goal. We plan activities around teaching them how to look at what their monthly budget is a monthly spending plan, I should say.

And we do that through a grant we receive from allstate right, so the Allstate Foundation. Yes. They also have a curriculum, so five module curriculum that we’re able to utilize as well. And as part of that, we implement things like thrifting and how they can decorate and furnish their homes on a budget rather than going out and buying brand new furniture or buying things that is not within their budget. So they start small and they build and grow until they get their way to financial independence. We help them to develop a plan, to develop an emergency saving plans as well. So the economic impact is great and it trickles down to what it is that is necessary, that they find is necessary for them to get out of the shelter, to lead a life of financial independence as well. And a part of it is we help talk about, we help develop entrepreneurship as well. If they have something that they’re passionate about, it could be making jewelry, it could be making soaps or any kind of personal care item. If that’s their goal, we help them to come up with a plan to do that as well.

Wow, this is incredible. I mean, I know that not to it’s like I was just wondering, like there are several organizations I’ve supported in the past here in Massachusetts. I remember still getting their mailers and all the events. But there is a place for, let’s say for artists with these folks with certain mental disability or challenges and you will purchase those items. But I think in the future, at one point, would it make sense, like if enough people add a shelter making jewelry, soaps, candles, that sort of thing doesn’t make sense to sell them? Or does it? From a creative entrepreneurial perspective, that’s also work, shipping, handling. So what are your thoughts on that?

Listen, anytime I think we can help a survivor earn income in whatever way we can, I think it’s a great idea. I have this vision of having either an online store or a brick and mortar store, but preferably online where survivors can make their products and we can sell it for them. In line with I have to mention, we get donations of fabric. And so what we have done, we’ve turned that into making pillows. So we have pillows now. We have pillows for purpose. And it’s all beautiful pillows that we make at the safe house. Our volunteers, our staff, our clients, families, I don’t like to call them clients because there are families we serve. They also join in at times and we sell pillows and we’re able to offer the pillows for sale and have that money’s help in some of the ways that they need to assist with, if they need help with finances as well.

Isn’t that incredible? I mean, I can see some of these items even floating, not all of them, some items floating in the shelter and then it’s memory and it’s imprints of who has been here prior to you. And there is that almost feels like it’s a lineage of connections. People may not relate to you by blood, but relate to you by purpose. And that’s an incredible feeling.

Absolutely. I had one of the young boys, he sold his pillow, his first. He’s never used a needle and thread before he made his pillow. And he’s like, I’m giving this to my friend. And he was so happy sitting there and sewing his fabric and stuffing it. And it just gives them a real sense of purpose and a sense of community and belonging while going through the challenges that they face. Being homeless.

Yeah. I feel like I could really talk to you forever. And one of the areas I want to kind of delve into as our maybe last topic, which is so huge, is we start talking about funding grants. And I’m currently involved in a number of projects, and one of the biggest challenges would be funding. And these are all very important causes and issues. And I have to say that when you look around and most of these nonprofit organizations, it is hard to survive for them. But yet you’ve done this for a number of years, even through COVID. That’s why I want to have this conversation. But can we open up about maybe some of the approaches you’ve taken, the grants available, how to be resourceful. But on the other hand, like, you are you’re such a self sufficient, like, woman. Like you. The reason why you’re able to do this is because you are entrepreneurial. So could you maybe teach us something? Share something with us about how to think about it? Like the mindset of I guess instead of rely on grants alone from the government, like, wait for something to change so that I can do this, how to balance the two, get the grants, but also do something.

Yeah. So here’s what I’m going to say to that. And it’s a mindset from the beginning, right? Because this is a project that in the beginning was really built on the relationships. I can’t say enough about partnering with the community, partnering with people sometimes you ordinarily wouldn’t expect. We ran into a number of challenges while we were, I want to say, building or putting together the shelter. And if anybody is out there and they’re thinking of a project, if they’re thinking of a goal, I don’t know what your personal purpose or plan or goal, it might be to start a nonprofit. It might be to start your own business. If you’re a survivor and you’re even listening to this and trying to figure it out, it starts with believing. And for me, I believed we can do this. I believed it was necessary. So whatever the obstacle that we had, I just kept telling myself, it’s possible. When the wall fell apart in the safe house and we needed to move by tons of bricks and it would have cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Again, I said there’s a way, there’s a will and we’re going to get it done.

But again, it’s a community involvement. It’s really finding people who are in your tribe who know someone. Maybe I don’t, but the person that I’m associated with knows someone and letting that person know your vision and having them just identify with your passion, it will happen. They say when you know your why then how is right there. It’ll come. You know your passion, you know you’re driven. We’ve had this conversation with you. You are passionate about what you wanted to do and how you wanted to expand Faith World and you did. It was challenging. Yes. Was the shelter challenging? Is it still challenging because of funding goes and come but the services are always needed. So it’s up to the visionary to really understand where we need to go and what we need to do in order to be consistent and to continue to provide the services that are much needed.

Isn’t that well said? It’s so true. Timing wise. Yesterday someone mentioned Michael Jr’s work to me. I didn’t know who he was and it’s about knowing the why. Simon sinek. Same thing. Knowing the why and you’ll find a way the what and how will just will come and you have to be passionate about it. And then there are certain things you’re just not in it for the money. So if you’re here to make money and you have to look some other ways to do so, but true impacts connections and things you can it is in this case, I think it’s very much a lifesaving. Not just for the primary clients to think about their children and all the people, the connections that they’re associated with their direct family, but then other indirect and future relationships. But yeah, it’s huge.

Yeah, absolutely. I can’t say enough about the impact of relationships and having people who are aligned with your vision, having people who are there to say, all right, today looks a little bleak, but what do we learn from today to propel us on to tomorrow? Right. And I know they’re saying, and I can’t remember who said it, but every setback is a setup for a comeback. Right. It’s what you learn and how you grow from that challenge that you may be encountering. And I’ve certainly encountered many throughout this process. Many. And when I look back I said I would say to myself, oh, that’s the reason why that happened. What was I supposed to learn from it? Right. And even the impact of my being a child witness and survivor of domestic violence, the impact of even watching my mom go through what she went through, what did I learn from that that propelled me to do what I’m doing today? Right. So it’s using our experiences for growth and looking at it that way rather than beating ourselves up and being a victim right. Rather than figuring out how to be a victor of your experiences.

And they don’t control you, you control them.

Yeah, look at that. In your world, no matter how big or small, even if you’re talking to these 15 women, I mean, every word, the impact you have, it’s just huge. I don’t think it’s any less than someone like Tony Robbins, frankly, because the people that some people on the podium could speak to, sure, charge 1000, $5,000. So you’re a certain caliber, certain financial means that you can be part of this conversation. But I think about these people who didn’t choose to be experiencing this, but they choose to come and choose to another path. And this choice is so hard to make because everything and everyone’s pulling you right back to where you started. That was my feeling. Watch the series. But then having a voice like yours and having the support network is incredible. What it means to these people.

Yeah, the support network is huge. And I know oftentimes we hear a question, why doesn’t she just leave that to me? Is one of the most unbelievably terrible questions to ask. We should be asking why does the harm door do what he does or she does? And I know that we’ve been speaking using the pronoun her and she as a victim, but we also recognize that they’re male survivors and male victims of domestic violence as well. However, more times I find 84% of the times women are impacted by domestic violence. I just want to be sure that we understand that as well. But yes, so the support is unbelievably important that we will give that friend, that mother, that aunt, that uncle, that sister, whoever it is, it’s just really understanding and not judging, right? Not judging being the support system to say, I am sorry you’re going through this and please let me know how I can help you. And to offer a number like the hotline number, if someone is out there and someone needs the assistance, they can call. There’s also a national hotline as well and that number is eight. I can tell you that number is 807 99723 three.

Wow. So, yeah, that’s super helpful. I saw the website, I want to talk about it and I realize it’s actually from Netflix. It’s not like a national it was at the end of the movie, but so helpful. And that like to understand that. Why didn’t you leave? Why didn’t you just say so? I think I’ve been questioned about that, of growing up with a very violent grandparents, even though that’s not really my mom’s. Like, why did you tell me? But I was like, I remember very clearly I told you. And that has been very challenging for me to accept, for me to work through that. I’m pretty sure I did say it, but sometimes people don’t hear it or like you said, enough learning from you that they are threatening to kill you too. There are a lot of threats about you stepping out of the door, you’re coming home at 06:00. Why do you think it makes it easy for you to take the child to get into a car and drive miles away? They make it very impossible to you, right?

Very impossible. It’s so much and understanding violence and context as well. You’re trusting someone, right? This is a person that you love. This is a person that you marry. And so those red flags you’re not paying attention to those red flags, you’re not paying attention. If he says to you, well, let’s move away. We’ll have a better life in Buffalo, right? And you’re living in North Carolina and all your families there. Let’s move away and join me here. When you get to Buffalo, you realize you can’t get a job. He wants you to stay home all day and be dependent financially on this person. And it’s just subtly happening where you’re stuck at home, you’re stuck in the house, and no family, no friends, and isolation, right? Remember we talked about domestic violence, intimate partner violence. It just thrives in those kind of environment where you’re isolated and in your head, you’re thinking, this is all I have. Yeah, right. It’s like you mentioned your grandparents, mom and dad may not be listening because they’re like, no, that’s not happening. No, they didn’t hear it. Did I just say this? So why would you bring it up a second time?

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So true that they don’t want to believe it, and I never thought about it that way. And a child is often blamed to say, oh, you’re lying or you’re exaggerating. You’re not being truthful. There’s something that you get, he’s having a tough time. He’s really having a hard time. Wow, this is such a powerful conversation.

All the excuses that we tend to make, even the excuses that survivors, when they are reflecting back and they look and they’re like, oh, that was an excuse for his behavior and understanding that domestic violence, intimate partner violence, these are all choices. It’s about power and control. It’s not a mental illness. Certainly it can get worse if there is drinking and drugs and alcohol and so forth that is involved. But at the end of the day, someone else is feeling that they have this right, they have this power over you, and that’s their choice to keep you in that situation, right? But I can tell you, the women we serve are some of the most courageous women that I know. And they inspire me. Them and their children inspire me every day to go in and do this work. Because the cards that it takes for a woman to leave what she knows as security. A home. A bed for her child. A bed for her children. Food in her home. Possibly her car. What it takes to leave. And then to know that leaving is oftentimes the most dangerous time for a woman or for a person to leave.

That relationship is incredible. And I’m inspired to continue to do this work for those and for all those who are being victimized and those who are survival and are surviving right now.

Wow. This is incredible. I mean, really is. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. So for anybody who’s watching, listening, definitely learn more about Annette and also her organization, Afsnj.org. I do encourage you to contribute, no matter how little it is, and, you know, winter clothing and gift cards, and if you don’t know exactly what to send them an email, they will certainly let you know. But thank you so much for your time for joining me, answering these questions, and catch up in the near future, for sure.

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Absolute pleasure.

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Media links:

Access Family Services
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Learn more: https://ncadv.org/take-action

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