Inspiring hope, changing lives.

Mission in Action

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  • What Color is October?

    DVawarenessWritten by Heather Mullaly, M.S.Ed.
    Volunteer Resident Counselor

    Don’t worry this is not a trick question like the one associated with the now infamous dress. When asked that question perhaps your thoughts turn to the colors of leaves, pumpkins, or apples; yellow, orange, and red. Another person may think of orange and black for Halloween.  For many people the color pink for Breast Cancer Awareness comes to mind. These are all great and correct answers! The color most people don’t think of, or may not be aware of, for October is the color purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

    Now the question is what is Domestic Violence? When most people think of Domestic Violence they think of hitting, punching, and bruising; physical abuse. Again, these are all correct answers! In fact, domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes. However, this month is all about increasing awareness of not just the obvious physical abuse associated with Domestic Violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence) but the other types of abuse; emotional, financial, sexual, reproductive, and digital.

    Emotional abuse can range from name calling, continually criticizing, insulting, or humiliating you to actively isolating you from friends and family. One highly effective form of emotional abuse is known as “gaslighting” which is an attempt to cause the individual being abused to question their memories, feelings, and sanity. This is accomplished by the abuser denying or pretending to forget about things that have occurred, countering the victim’s memory of events by stating that the victim never remembers things accurately, dismissing what the victim says or diverting attention away from it, minimizing the victim’s needs or feelings, or completely refusing to listen to the victim at all.

    Financial abuse can involve denying you access to your paycheck or other funds, intentionally running up debt in your name and/or not paying bills in an effort to ruin your credit score, or preventing you from working. Being forced to engage in any type of sexual act or having a sexually transmitted disease knowing and intentionally passed to you are types of sexual abuse. Being forced to become pregnant or to become pregnant right after giving birth are examples of reproductive abuse. With the use of cell phones and social media, digital abuse is also something to look out for. This includes things such as demanding access to your social media accounts and/or your cell phone, and frequently texting or calling you making you fear what will happen if you do not answer.

    Another aspect of domestic violence to look out for is the pattern correlated with abusive relationships known as the Cycle of Abuse. Typically there are three phases to the cycle: tension building, the incident, and the honeymoon phase. The tension phase is where the relationship becomes strained and communication starts to breakdown. During this phase this victim may feel as if they “are walking on egg shells”, fearful of what may anger the abuser. Next is the incident phase which is often where most of the abuse, physical or otherwise takes place. The honeymoon phase is usually when the abuser apologizes for the abuse and promises that it won’t happen again. Abuse often decreases during this phase but does not necessarily stop; the abuser can also blame the victim for the abuse or attempt to minimize it during this phase. After this phase comes the tension building, thus continuing the cycle.

    Here is the last question: What can you do if you are in a domestic violence situation? The important thing to remember is to know that you are NOT to blame. There is nothing that you have done, or could do, that has caused you to be abused. The abuser is the only one responsible for their behavior.

    • If you are in immediate danger, call 911!
    • Have a safety plan for staying safe during an incident which can includes things such as avoiding rooms with weapons (like the kitchen), avoiding rooms or spaces with no exits (like a closet), keeping car keys and cell phone accessible at all times, and not wearing scarves or jewelry that can used for strangle you. *Keep in mind that safety plans should be created to fit your personal situation. They can, and should, be adapted to include children and possibly pets.
    • Keep a small bag packed with essentials such as important personal documents (driver’s license, social security card, insurance cards, paperwork for children, any documentation of the abuse, copies of protection orders, etc), medications, money, keys, and change of clothes. Keep this bag hidden from your abuser or keep it with a trusted friend or relative if possible.
    • You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They have advocates that can assist callers in over 170 different languages and all calls are anonymous and confidential. You can also chat online with an advocate through their website at thehotline.org. They can assist callers who are experiencing all types abuse so please be aware that it does not have to be physical for you to reach out for help.
    • The Hotline can help you find a domestic violence shelter in your area or you can go to domesticshelters.org to search for one yourself. In addition to providing you a safe place to stay, they often offer a variety of services including counseling, safety planning, legal advocacy, employment, and housing assistance.
    • For more information you can visit the website for The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: ncadv.org. You can also download a new app (free on iTunes and Google Play) called Sojourner Peace which provides domestic violence information and intervention services. The app has a disguised icon, requires a security code, and has a “hide app” button on each screen for safety. (**Please keep in mind if your abuser is digitally abusing you and has access to your phone this app may not be a safe option.)

    Raising awareness about this topic is so important because 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be the victim of some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Adults are not the only ones affected by domestic violence; 1 in 15 children are exposed to it every year and 90% of these children witness violence firsthand. On average over 200,000 phone calls are made to domestic violence hotlines across the United States each year. Domestic Violence affects everyone regardless of race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, level of education, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality.

    It is important to educate ourselves and others about the warning signs of Domestic Violence and the ways you, or someone you know, can get help getting away from an abusive relationship. This knowledge can help save your life or the life of someone you know. So along with all the other colors you may associate with October, make purple one of them.

  • What I Love About Pope Francis

    Quite simply…his delivery. We live in a world where so many people are looking out for #1. In fact, we have invented a type of photograph that draws attention to yourself (selfie) and then we send that to others as a measure of how important we are. We sometimes measure ourselves by the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers or likes. Nationally, we have accepted that it is politically okay to turn all of the attention on oneself and even worse that civil discourse can include name calling and insults.

    Pope Francis does the opposite. He uses his popularity and reflects it like a mirror on the poor, the disabled, the needy, and those who need our help the most. His humility draws so many to our faith, to our work and to the needs of our world. When I think of the images of the Pope it is never of the Pope with world leaders; it is always of the Pope with children.

    As we await his arrival and we prepare to be in his presence, what I like most about the Pope is what I like most about my wife, my children, and my friends…just thinking of them & him makes me smile.

  • What I Love About The Catholic Church…

    As my wife and I prepare to travel tomorrow I find myself reflecting on a conversation I had with an agnostic friend a few years ago. He asked me what I liked about being Catholic and wondered why I didn’t see the Church as old and outdated. I said I viewed the Catholic faith as a large rock in a flowing stream. Over time the currents rush by every day and the rock remains. Over huge periods of time, the rock may move a little due to the current but the change is gradual.

    Our society clings to constant movement in life. Apps, Facebook, Twitter and the latest polls are constantly telling us to change our minds, update our lives or post our views. We are barraged with thoughts that constant change and updates are a requirement of life equal to breathing. Sometimes I find myself in a need to slow down and worry less about updating my life and start living my life. Sometimes we all need a rock.

    The Church is my rock. It is what I need when everything else is about living in the moment and believing in what is popular. The Catholic faith provides stability for me…it is the mighty rock that does not change with the rush of new fads, new technology or new information. It remains steadfast. One of my favorite things to do is to go to Church on vacation. It is a reminder that with my faith I can go anywhere in the world and experience the same Mass as my parish at home. If you take a moment to reflect on that simple fact, it is an amazing view of our faith. That every hour of every day in this world someone is praying for you and me and celebrating what we hold sacred.

    Are their things that I personally wish would change about the Catholic Church? Sure. But that is the best part; the church does not change for the individual or even the majority. It only changes when… change better reflect Christ’s mission of service to fellow man, to increase our resolve to protect and hold sacred every human life and to better reflect God’s love for us all.

    So while politicians may attempt to use the Pope Francis’ Welcome Ceremony at the White House to bring attention to the differences of the Catholic Church and American society (see WSJ article on invited guests). I will use it as an opportunity to Stand with my Rock and pray that God continues to give Pope Francis the wisdom to guide His faithful people.

  • Opportunity of A Lifetime… Generations

    There are times in every person’s life where everything feels like a struggle and around every corner there seems to be unexpected burdens, additional costs and unforeseen roadblocks in life. The beginning of this summer was that time for me. It seemed that everything in our house was broken at the same time, it took almost a month to have my AC fixed and things at work were stressful. And, my 40th birthday was June 10th.

    Two days after my 40th birthday, my wife and I found out that God had chosen for us to have our 4th child (to add to my 12 year old daughter, and 10 and 8 year old sons). While I was overjoyed to welcome this great news, as a Father, I was also overwhelmed with all of the issues that new fatherhood brings: did I make enough money to support another child, could I be a good father to a newborn at 40, how was I going to stay up at night, is our house big enough, and the realization that we have donated every baby item to friends or charity.

    Needless to say I had a lot of questions and doubts. And when those times happen, I find myself turning to God for a sign. As I write this, it seems so foolish to ask God to give me something to let me know it would be OK. But two days after my wife’s 1st OB visit, I received an email that stated as CEO of Catholic Charities I would receive 2 tickets to the Papal Mass in DC. This was my sign…

    ticketsI remember instantly feeling that I didn’t deserve this opportunity. Here I was worried about the blessing that God has given my wife and I, when some of the very couples we help at CCEVA are struggling to create their own families. The truth is that there are so many people on our staff, and many volunteers at local parishes and in our community that deserve to be in the presence of our Holy Father more than I.

    So, I have to bring you with me. While physically this is impossible, spiritually this is a necessity. As my wife and I make our way to DC next week, we will be doing our best to show you everything we are experiencing through this blog, our CCEVA Facebook page and Twitter feed. And, more importantly, we will be bringing our CCEVA book of prayer intentions to pray for at the Papal Mass.

    When I told my grandmother about the Papal Mass I realized something very important. My grandmother’s family consisted of generations of Catholics and none of them would have ever dreamed of being in the presence of the Pope. In turn, the likelihood that my children will ever be afforded the opportunity that I am given next week is slim.

    This is not the chance of a lifetime… it is the opportunity of generations.

Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia could not be successful in its work without the help of engaged community partners. We are proud to work alongside the following organizations who make our community stronger and healthier!