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She's Doing It Her Way

An advocate branches out on her own to try and help survivors connect the dots

  • January 25, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
She's Doing It Her Way

As an advocate for 17 years at her local domestic violence crisis center, Kathy Jones knows how hard nonprofits work every day fighting the good fight. But she also saw the gaps—the places where survivors fell through, their requests denied. There were needs that couldn’t be met because of rules, a lack of funding or simply because advocates were stretched too thin.

A survivor herself of six years of domestic violence, Jones knew what it felt like to have nowhere to turn, to feel like no one was hearing you. Her idea was simple: “Let’s think about a way to say yes, rather than limiting or restricting services.”

So the married mom of two daughters in college did something bold: She quit her job. Asking her husband to shoulder more of the family’s financial burden and proposing she start her own nonprofit, he replied, “Just do it already. I know this has been your goal for as long as I’ve known you.” That was all the push she needed.

Jones began her “one-woman horse and pony show,” as she puts it, in September of 2015. SELAH, or Sanctuary, Empowerment, Love and Hope, became part of the New England Pastoral Institute, a crisis intervention and mental health services organization. 

Breaking all the Rules

From crisis counseling to safety planning to consulting on survivors’ court cases, Jones’s goal is to make her services as accessible as possible while being flexible with the unspoken rules of domestic violence advocacy. That includes meeting survivors where they’re at.

In her last job, Jones says she talked to many survivors whom, because of a lack of transportation or childcare, wished an advocate would come to them. Jones does just that, providing mobile advocacy, as dangerous as it may sound. But she’s careful.

“I safety plan with them. I don’t just blindly jump in and say, ‘Sure, I’ll come to your home.’ We figure out a plan we can both do that will achieve what we need to and keep us both safe.” She has some 73 survivor clients she works with now. “Very long days,” she says, when asked how she does it all solo.

Among the usual advocacy work, Jones also offers something quite unique to survivors—a tool she calls cycle mapping.

After an in-depth interview with a survivor, Jones creates a detailed report of a survivor’s entire history of abuse, from childhood to adulthood in some cases, that the survivor can keep and use as she or he wishes. Her cycle mapping reports have helped survivors connect the dots, seeing vital patterns of abuse with their partner that can help with everything from predicting future behavior, further the healing process and even, in some cases, be used as evidence in court to prove domestic abuse or help secure child custody.

“It’s about eight to ten pages long and breaks down the history by the type of abuse, detailing how this would impact [the survivor] as a person, how her children are going through the same cycle, how the community is either helping or hurting the victim.” Jones says that when she created this report for one victim who was facing 10 years in jail for being part of a prostitution ring, the judge read her report and lessened the survivor’s sentence to a year.

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“He saw how she was set up from early childhood to fail. Then the judge said he had to go back and review the sentencing of the other women picked up in the sting as a result.”

She hopes that by sharing her cycle mapping process, other organizations in other states can follow suit. “Much of what I’m doing can be duplicated by local crisis centers if they’re willing to look at a different way of allocating their resources.” But with zero funding coming in, right now, it’s just Jones, trying to make a difference.

“There are so many [survivors] who are not feeling supported enough. I understand why they feel that way.”

Do You Know a Domestic Violence Hero?
DomesticShelters.org is looking for individuals or companies doing uniquely heroic things within their communities to help survivors of domestic violence. If you know someone, let us know about them by emailing Amanda@DomesticShelters.org and they may be featured in an upcoming story.