Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mentoring Domestic Violence Survivors--One of the Many Faces of Homelessness

So, you know about Trusted Mentors. You know that we mentor adults coming out of homelessness, re-entering the community from incarceration, and aging out of foster care.  I’ve been with Trusted Mentors for more than three years now and have found that my favorite part of the job is learning about the many faces and facets of homelessness—to meet those faces and to delve into their stories and triumphs.


One of the faces of homelessness is survivors of domestic violence. A recent mentor -match was held at Coburn Place Safe Haven. Our new mentee is fascinating enough—her story is inspirational and really demonstrates the will to survive under dire circumstances. However, this mentor also has a compelling story.


Our volunteer mentor, Tracy, is also a domestic violence survivor. During the match meeting at Coburn, she shared pieces of her dramatic story with her new mentee.  The mentor and mentee immediately found a level of understanding that can only be shared between two abuse survivors (although I see strong connections made all the time even when mentor and mentee come from completely different walks of life!).


At a follow- up meeting, Tracy was able to share with me some key points to remember when building understanding with a survivor of domestic violence.


·          Realize that your mentee may return to their abuser, as the domestic abusive relationship is cyclical by nature. Despite the abuse, connections are difficult to sever, and abusers often give the message that they’ll do better next time.

·          If your mentee returns to the abusive relationship, continue to be supportive in a nonjudgmental manner.  The survivor is already feeling shame. To avoid feeding into that negative emotion, avoid saying things like-- “I can’t believe you went back with him. We told you not to go back.”

·          Continue to reach out to your mentee, even if they are unresponsive. They need to know that someone cares.

·          Give your mentee messages like-- “You’re awesome” and “You’re worth it.” Tracy sends her mentee daily texts of encouragement.

One of our other mentors, a woman mentoring a survivor through the Julian Center, was somewhat familiar with the cycle of domestic abuse, as she had a close friend who had been victimized. Although this mentor hadn’t been through it herself, she was still able to support her mentee as she began to stabilize her life with solid housing, job training, and employment. This mentor provided a steady voice of support, encouragement, and guidance while her mentee rebuilt a life for herself and her children.


These mentors provide us with valuable insight and knowledge to share—for which we are grateful—but, whatever life experience you may have had, know that it is enough. All of our volunteer mentors are provided with a four-hour mentor orientation and training, as well as ongoing support and continued education from trusted Mentors’ staff. Each of our mentors brings their own gifts and talents to the table when mentoring. Together, we can affect real change in the lives of our mentees.


We are truly thankful for all of our mentors who devote their times to touch the life of another.