As we near the end of our 39th year at the Women's Freedom Center, we're both heartened and sobered by the work still ahead in this movement. Though we're never surprised by the resilience of the women we work with -- it's how they've survived -- it's still remarkable how much of their strength and their stories must remain hidden if they want to find relative safety. And so as advocates, it's gratifying to feel a similar counterweight in our community -- the generous force of all the unseen helpers out there on women's challenging road to freedom. So many of you ask no questions or anything in return, but know it will take more than just random acts of kindness to address this scale of harm. As fellow social justice activists, your efforts are vital to our mission, and yes, our morale too -- it's how we survive.
Some of you we've thanked publicly over the years, but happily there are too many allies who support our cause to list everyone by name. Please know that each woman and child we meet is potentially helped by your invisible web of support, and the creative ways you provide it. There's our philanthropic mechanic who waves off fees and instead, makes sure cars are road-worthy when women have to flee some distance. Quietly, our whole community profits from this one man's humanitarian deeds. Then there's the spirited grandmother who for several decades now -- longer than any of us has even worked here -- fills boxes of colorful gifts and crafts she gathers all year to be given to children. She's not alone in thoughtful donations either -- of items, energy and time -- including from survivors themselves who want to give back. So many of you stay alert year-round, not just to filling immediate needs, but also for ways to acknowledge the spirit of those kids and the dignity of their moms. There's a climate of hope created by all these individual gestures -- whether made by a new landlord, a court clerk, or a cab company, they all add up, and we want to thank you for pitching in wherever you can.
Like advocates everywhere doing both social change work and crisis intervention, we try to walk a fine line between raising public awareness and yet ensuring private safety. It's a lens that shifts daily -- from reminding, as in this column, that 1 in 3 women will be victimized -- to giving a glimpse behind the statistics and sharing one particular woman's recent struggle, as we did in an excerpt from our annual fundraising letter last month:
Imagine for a moment a woman on the brink of making the hardest decision of her life. She's holding our hotline number in her hand. Behind her are four years of abuse and fear. In front of her, the unknown. She feels alone. She wants to call, because right now, more than anything else, she needs to talk to someone who will understand. But she's afraid.
Her name is Sara. Yes, she's real, although Sara isn't her actual name. She's 31 years old, a mother of two, probably a lot like someone you know. Last year we answered more than 1,200 calls from women like Sara. Women looking for support, safety and most of all, a caring voice on the end of the line. In addition to answering our 24-hour hotline, we're meeting with women -- giving them the face-to-face support they need to begin the process of escaping lives of violence and fear. From July, 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 we worked with 591 women and their 482 children who had experienced domestic and/or sexual violence -- up 50 percent from the year before. The jump in numbers isn't because there's more domestic or sexual violence occurring, it's because of the success we've had in getting the word out that there are options; that there's help.
From year to year we all wish that our help, and yours, were no longer needed, but the Women's Freedom Center is now almost 40 years old, and our hotline continues to ring, while the cost of responding continues to rise. Though we work hard to seek funding from all possible sources, we do still need the community's financial backing. If you'd like to contribute you can use the address below, or click on our website's ‘donate' button. We'll sign off for this year with a huge thanks to the many friends out there of women's freedom. We appreciate your ongoing help in this urgent work.
The Women's Freedom Center is the local organization in Windham County working to end domestic and sexual violence. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/womensfreedomcenter and at www.womensfreedomcenter.net. You can reach an advocate on our 24-hour crisis line at 802-254-6954.