The last two weeks…
I started my internship a couple of weeks ago, so my blog is going to have to work hard to catch up. I’ll try my best not to be incoherent.
Well, to begin with, Harbor House is the local domestic violence shelter in Appleton. At any given time, there are about 20 women that are residents and dozens more that come in for the weekly support groups or for one-on-one appointments with the advocates.
My supervisor is one of the women’s advocates, Kathy Connolly. She is a bundle of energy, and it is a huge bonus to be able to work with her. My first week at Harbor House mainly consisted of shadowing Kathy as she showed me how the house runs on a daily basis. I sat in on support groups and one-on-one sessions. I learned how to answer crisis calls (believe me, it’s kind of intimidating at first). I went to court with Kathy and one of the clients to fill out a restraining order against her perpetrator (or ‘perp,’ as they’re known amongst the staff).
I sit in on house meetings, the weekly chance for the residents to come together and talk about the problems of communal living. These problems can be anything from security issues (security and confidentiality are a huge issue, as you might imagine) to stealing food and TV hours. (Today’s session got a little boisterous, actually!)
No two days are ever the same and I always go away feeling emotionally drained and fulfilled at the same time. The staff, from the beginning, treated me as one of them, kept nothing from me, and would take the time to fill me in on cases and situations that were new to me. It is an immeasurable reassurance in a setting that is potentially very intimidating.
Today was a landmark day for me, as Kathy decided that I was ready to do a one-on-one appointment by myself. She sort of sprung it on me about 30 seconds in advance, and left me sputtering (apparently, she does that a lot – I love my supervisor!). I was a wreck. I just stood around looking helpless and asked,”What do I say?” and Kathy said, “Just listen. She’ll do the talking.”
And that’s exactly what happened. I asked the woman I met with how everything was going with her and we actually got into a very comfortable discussion, where she shared with me her frustration with her husband’s attempts to control her and her children, her nervousness about the upcoming divorce, her child’s reactions to the whole situation. There were times I wished Kathy was with me, but overall, I thought it went extremely well. And, to tell the truth, all I had to do was listen. And it felt great.
Later, I briefed Kathy on the details of the conversation and told her about the things that I hadn’t been sure of. She said she would call the woman and offer her some options. So that was good.
Really, the last two weeks have been great. I bring home books and articles every day from the house, so I can understand what these women are going through and what approaches are currently being used in trying to help them recover. Some of it is extremely fascinating!
Sorry about the mind-numbing length of this entry. I promise they’ll be more concise and more specific from the next time onwards!
(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.