Unmasking the Cycle of Violence

By Ammie Bryant, Editor

What began as a grassroots effort to found Stillwater Domestic Violence Services in 1979 has since transformed into Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services–an organization that serves five counties (Payne, Lincoln, Noble, Logan, and Pawnee). Each year, Wings of Hope helps hundreds of individuals and families at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable through its mission to break the cycle of violence by providing safety, hope, and empowerment.

The community will get a chance to invest in the mission of Wings of Hope when it holds its upcoming Gala, “Masquerade: Unmasking the Cycle of Violence.”  The goal of the event is to raise awareness of Wings of Hope in the community and to raise funds to provide sustainability for the shelter and counseling programs. The Gala will take place on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 from 6-8pm at Taylor’s Restaurant in the new College of Human Sciences North Wing on the OSU Campus.  The event will feature food prepared by OSU’s Executive Chef Tiffany Poe and highly acclaimed Cooking for Kids chefs, Callie Fowler and Valarie Carter. There will also be live music and a live auction.  Dr. Jonathan Drummond will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

“Domestic violence impacts men, women, children, families and the community. This event gives the community a chance to support those in need by investing in the organization’s programs,” said Wings of Hope Executive Director Marie Abraham-Robinson.

According to the National Coalition Against Dating Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. One in fifteen children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

On the local level, Wings of Hope staff and volunteers see the human impact of these stats everyday. In 2016, they gave safe shelter for 178 women and 215 children. Wings of Hope provide individual counseling services to 133 women and 7 men and family counseling to 178 people. Advocates helped 424 victims file emergency protective orders and  met with 27 rape victims in the emergency room. A total of 5,796 calls were made to the 24 hour crisis helpline; 1,444 of those were crisis calls. Throughout this work, the organization partners with the Saville Center, Mission of Hope, Stillwater Medical Center, Payne County Youth Shelter, and local law enforcement.

Wings of Hope meets the challenge of fulfilling their mission in the face of the stark reality of these numbers with a sense of hope firmly grounded in education and empowerment. The organization provides counseling for clients through licensed therapists, license-eligible therapists, and interns who provide support in the office, shelter, and community. Therapeutic support helps clients to build self-esteem, independence, and empowerment.  Advocates help clients to find the services and resources they need to make the transition to an independent life. They help clients to find their own home, build a resume, search for jobs, make a budget, and fill out court paperwork. At every step of the process, education and support are the foundation of empowerment for each client.  

In addition to services to help those affected by domestic and sexual violence, Wings of Hope seeks to end the cycle of violence through its prevention programs such as its bystander intervention education program. It teaches the bystander who witnesses or suspects abuse how to handle different types of situations. These programs are presented to schools, churches, and organizations who have invited Wings of Hope to educate them on how they can be a part of the solution to stopping the cycle of violence. A couple of years ago, the program was presented to the Oklahoma State University Cowboys Football captains. Once the football leadership had been through the program they took what they had learned and presented it to their peers. “We hope to be able to present it to the team again soon,” said Marie Abraham-Robinson, Wings of Hope Executive Director. “We work with many groups on campus including more than five counseling centers, sexual violence prevention staff, OSU Police, and the Student Conduct Office.”  

One element that is absolutely crucial to Wings of Hope’s ability to carry out their mission is a complete attitude of non-judgment. “We don’t pass judgment on our clients,” said Director Abraham-Robinson. “They wouldn’t feel safe coming to us. We offer no judgment, just support as often as they need it.”

These efforts to provide safety and support, education and empowerment for those who most desperately need it without judgment have in turn nurtured hope for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It has also given wing to the hope of seeing an end to the cycle of violence someday.

“You have given me the opportunity to have any future I choose,” said one client regarding the services and support offered by Wings of Hope.

“That’s my favorite quote,” said Director Abraham-Robinson. “You just don’t realize what that really means to someone who has been a victim of violence until you see it put into those words.”

To support Wings of Hope and their mission to break the cycle of violence by providing safety, hope, and empowerment, RSVP to attend the Masquerade Gala by March 15 by calling 405-372-9922 or email [email protected] with questions. To learn more about Wings of Hope visit www.sdvs.org.