Advocate Group Helps Families Break Cycle of Abuse
Domestic violence is a persistent issue in Pierce County that generates 70 percent of police calls, signifying deeply rooted family needs.
Our Sisters’ House (OSH), a Tacoma-based advocacy organization, is finding effective ways to help families break the cycle of abuse and form better family units. Their efforts are appreciated and recognized by Pierce County juvenile programs and a Proclamation Award from the city of Tacoma last October.
“We’re trying to break down generations of abuse,” says Kelli Robinson, OSH executive director. “Many parents don’t know how to parent because they were victims of abuse and neglect. When children witness violence, they need to get help, get to safety and get stable. If they don’t get help, the child will either grow up to become an abuser or victim.”
While Our Sisters’ House started in 1995 to help runaway teens, the organization now offers three recognized programs for empowering women, giving teens and their families new direction, and teaching children stepping stones to a better future. (For program descriptions, visit oursistershouse.com.)
New Directions, with 35–50 participants per session, is a key program in the OSH arsenal of family help. Pierce County sends teenagers in diversion (arrested, but not charged, for crimes ranging from domestic violence to vandalism and assault) to learn better life strategies. Teens and parents build connections with peers who are going through similar issues.
“You can tell how much this impacts families,” says Corallyn Story, OSH program assistant. “Some families are into their fourth or fifth session. Families will complete the program and then come back for a refresher in six to 12 months. It’s incredible how much people vouch for that program. It’s really inspiring to see.”
When Robinson saw how well New Directions was integrated into a local community host church, she offered her own church the opportunity to get involved. Mount Tahoma Church in Tacoma agreed to be the host site for a new Women Empowered group where a session of five women learn how to become self-sufficient after domestic violence.
“We like partnering with churches because they take on a group as a ministry,” Robinson says, noting how churches also form additional connections.
Mount Tahoma, for example, also hosts a community health class in a first-time cooperation with Tacoma Central Church as well as Voice of Hope and Open Bible churches in Lakewood. With referrals between the women’s program and the health class, more families are receiving the help they need.
“We call our advocates ‘boots on the ground’ because they see specific needs every day,” Robinson says. “The needs are really high, and we’re finding ways to fill the gaps. We need more people to get involved in addressing domestic violence and strengthening the family unit.”