By Sandi Argo Photos by Sharon Burby
Victim Advocate for Jack County, Karen VanderKaay has found herself already busy, since even before the official opening. Not a trend that anyone wants to think exists. Having an outreach center will be a great asset for the county because as VanderKaay says “We are here because we know there are victims here”. Another service they bring is to help with protective orders, almost as a triage, according to Vanderkaay. “We will interview the people involved and make sure that a protective order is really what they want or need. That frees up county employees that would have been handed that task”.
One thing that perhaps people don’t think about is the fact that there have also been men that have used the shelter. Aggression is not a gender specific issue says VanderKaay “There are aggressive women out there and men need to know that help is available for them too. Much too often people tend to stereotype abused men. Those men may hesitate to seek help because of that, but we are here to help anyone that needs it. No stereotyping, no judging.” With education being the key, VanderKaay says that setting good examples and teaching kids at an early age will hopefully turn the future into one with less abuse. Bringing to the kids at the Jacksboro Middle School an 8 week program about healthy relationships. “In those classes we do tell them that men can be the victim. We teach them that sometimes women can be the aggressor”. VanderKaay also brought a 7 week course to the Jacksboro Elementary School, presenting to the 3rd through 5th grade students, covering subjects such as bullying and even cyber-bullying. They are planning to bring a study to the high school students next year, as well as in the Perrin and Bryson schools. “That’s my game plan” says VanderKaay “They told me to just go and do what I need to do in Jack County” adding “I’m open to visiting with women’s groups in churches or civic groups or whatever”.
The shelter offers free counseling from a licensed professional counselor to their clients. “If you feel like you have been abused, we don’t question it. You can come in and be a client. We also have one on one healthy relationship classes for people. CPS uses Wise Hope Shelter for people that have been “tagged” to get them into healthy relationship classes”. According to VanderKaay, these classes also help parents realize the effects of what unhealthy relationships can have on children and families. The definition for Domestic Violence is very wide.
If a client stays at the shelter, they are expected to work a service plan and participate in counseling, in their own way pulling their own weight. The plan is not to have people rely on someone else to take care of them but to teach them how to take care of themselves if they leave an unhealthy relationship. “This is not a free ride” Says VanderKaay “But a place for someone to heal and start over and be safe”.
With word getting out that they are here, VanderKaay says that she has been getting calls about a number of issues they don’t handle. “We don’t do grief counseling or any other types unless they are directly related to domestic violence or sexual abuse, rape, dating violence and/or stalking. VanderKaay says they would like to help everyone but they have to remain focused on the issues at hand.
If this were a perfect world, places like the Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center would not be needed. With unemployment and economy issues being so common, the chances of the Wise Hope Shelter closing their doors because of a lack of need are slim to none. In this imperfect world it is a comfort to know that places like this exist and people like VanderKaay are willing to take on the task of helping them.
The Wise Hope Shelter (Jacksboro) is located at 200 N Church Street, Jacksboro, Tx 76458