Support Groups and Court
The last couple of days have been spent in observing Kathy’s support groups and going to court to witness a preliminary divorce hearing of one of our clients.
Kathy has two separate support groups: one general group (whose theme this month is “Journaling for Healing”) and a group for women over 50 (whose stories of violence and abuse are startlingly different from younger women). I sat in on both of them last week.
The journaling group took an unexpected turn, as one of the women said she “had something to share,” and before we knew it, each of them was talking about their individual situations and how each of them is trying to face her own demons. Journaling was forgotten for the moment, as the women realized that though each of them is fighting a singular battle, they all share the same kind of fight. Watching how Kathy smoothly brought back the idea, every so often, of journaling and writing ideas down gave me some valuable tips on how to effectively guide a discussion as intense as this. I need all the tips I can get, because at the end of July, Kathy is putting me in sole charge of the group. A scary thought, but I can’t wait!
The older women’s group, on the other hand, seemed to have a particular focus on the shortcomings of “kids these days.” A lot of the psychological and emotional abuse that these women experience comes from younger family members (children, sons or daughters-in-law etc.) and I felt acutely aware of my own youth in that room (and it was rather uncomfortable, to be honest!). One of the greatest challenges in this field, I suppose, is to be able to be seen first as a professional and then as a person.
Finally, court. The woman whose hearing we witnessed was the same one that I’d met with a week ago and I felt particularly invested in her case. I went with another of the advocates and we sat in the back of the room. Seeing her abuser was a strange experience. He looked so…normal. Not like a violent, controlling individual. No horns or cloven hoofs. Just…regular. The whole process of temporary divison of finances and temporary custody of the children was harrowing, though, and every moment, I kept thinking, “She’s going to lose everything. The blow’s coming.” But luckily, things worked out pretty well for her, and she is satisfied for now. It’s really fascinating to see how this whole process plays out outside the shelter!
Sorry that my blog entries are always so long. With this internship, ever day’s an emotional experience and I suppose the whole concept of “journaling for healing” applies to me as much as it does to anyone! I hope I’m not boring you!
(Madhuri Vijay, ’09 is a Psychology and English major interning at Harbor House Domestic Violence Center in Appleton, WI.)
If you’re participating in a Lawrence University Internship this summer and would like to blog about your experience, submit an entry here.