Every night, two bunk beds in each room of two Valley shelters are filled with women and children from all cultural and economic backgrounds.
A few personal belongings they managed to grab before a fast escape are strewn around the rooms – fragments of different lives coming together for no more than three months.
These women and children all have one thing in common – they are victims of domestic violence and they have found the courage to leave abusive situations.
They must now rely on the support of various organizations, as well as personal donors, to help them get their lives back together.
Chrysalis Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, Inc., is one of the resources female victims of domestic abuse use to do this.
Between its two shelters, at confidential locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Chrysalis houses 45 women and children for up to 90 days.
Both shelters are run in “a communal-type setting,” says Patricia Klahr, executive director. The women take turns completing different chores and do their own cooking and laundry.
The nonprofit organization relies heavily on donations.
All of the furniture and appliances in the shelters were donated, from the kitchen table and bunk beds to the TVs, and playground furniture.
Shelves in the supply room are filled with donated shoes, toys, makeup, feminine supplies, games, toilet paper and diapers.
Volunteers sort the donations on a daily basis, constantly replenishing the much-needed items.
Once a week, residents are allowed one hour to choose dresses, jackets, robes and other clothing for themselves and their children. Several women come to the shelter with “nothing but fear on their back,” says Charlene Vincent, volunteer coordinator.
Food is figured into the budget, but a great deal comes from food banks and donations. Sometimes organizations bring their own supplies to the shelter and cook for the residents.
Children’s birthdays are celebrated with cakes donated by a neighborhood church and new donated toys are set aside as presents.
Vincent organizes a toy drive in December and has a wish list of items for the shelter.
These items include toiletries, school supplies, baby formula, diapers, over-the-counter drugs without alcohol, children’s videos, movie certificates, dish soap and bus tickets.
The shelter can also use kitchenware such as silverware, plates and glasses to be used in the transitional apartments.
Throughout their stay, women and children receive independent and group counseling.
“If they are already working, we encourage them to continue working. If they’re not working and have no job skills, we hook them up with different job programs,” Klahr says.
Chrysalis also offers case management and advocacy, which means they help women get medical and legal assistance, housing and other services.
Wendy Shepherd, a counselor at the shelter for six years, works closely with the children. She plays games with them and helps them deal with their feelings. She says the most popular toy is the dollhouse, and children act out scenarios with the dolls, often using toy monsters. However, Shepherd warns that you must “be careful what you read into it,” as children have access to violence in television, movies and video games and may be acting out scenes from those.
Often, younger children are more apt to talk about a fight on the school playground rather than abuse in the home, she says, because their home lives seem normal to them.
Besides operating shelters for battered women and children, Chrysalis Shelter, founded in 1982, offers outpatient counseling for men, women and children in individual and group settings and provides community-centered education and prevention programs.
According to statistics, about 8 percent of women return to their spouses after leaving the shelter, Klahr says. Others go on to transitional or independent housing.
For Jewish families experiencing domestic violence, Chrysalis started Program Chai in September.
The program includes a support group for Jewish women who are victims of domestic violence, and meets 10-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays at Beth Joseph Congregation, 515 E. Bethany Home Road, Phoenix.
The shelter’s staff completed a training program to become educated about Jewish traditions and customs and kosher food is available.
Program Chai also offers outpatient counseling, shelter services and community outreach.
A study printed in a 1994 issue of Jewish Advocate showed that 15 percent to 20 percent of Jewish women are abused – a rate comparable to that of non-Jewish women.
Statistics also show that Jewish women remain in abusive relationships 5 to 10 years longer than non-Jewish women, says Klahr.
Several Valley Jewish organizations recognize the necessity of confronting this issue.
These women who have left their batterers and their homes are now seeking help in community shelters to continue with their lives, and most of all, to improve them.
For women who have left or are ready to leave an abusive relationship, Jewish Family and Children’s Service offers “Shelter Without Walls,” a transitional living program “designed to fill a gap between when a woman leaves a shelter and becomes independent and self-sufficient,” says resource specialist Nicola Winkel.
“Shelter Without Walls,” a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, offers goal development and on-going case management, individual and family counseling, access to career counseling and other services to help the woman to become self-sufficient.
Jewish Women International enforces education and published its 1996 Resource Guide for Rabbis to help rabbis deal with the problem. The guide includes information about domestic violence, how to identify and counsel abused women, how to identify and talk to batterers, and sample sermons.
Hadassah, Valley of the Sun Chapter, supplies materials regarding domestic violence in their Scottsdale office and individual groups within the chapter have sponsored informational programs. Hadassah also lobbies for the Violence Against Women Act, presently in congress.
A local chapter of National Council of Jewish Women holds a luncheon and shower to which guests bring clothes or items for the home and the gifts are donated to shelters or transitional housing programs.
NCJW also has guest speakers and holds programs to educate its members about domestic violence.
Honey Yellin, community liaison for NA’AMAT USA, says local chapters donate toiletries, food, clothing and toys to area shelters, as well as provide shelter information to callers.
JWI and NCJW are sponsors of the third annual Religious Response to Domestic Violence: A Conference for the Interfaith Religious Community 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, 4455 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley.
The conference will include addresses by Gov. Jane Hull; Attorney General Janet Napolitano; an interfaith religious leaders’ panel discussion on religious attitudes toward domestic violence; a criminal justice panel on legal issues of domestic violence; and afternoon interactive workshops.
Rabbi Lisa Tzur of Temple Chai in Phoenix and Rabbi Bonnie Koppell of Temple Beth Sholom in Chandler, are scheduled speakers.
This article first appeared in the Oct. 13, 2000 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.