Blue Monarch helps victims rebuild
[Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a multipart series about domestic violence. The following story contains graphic details of violent crime that some readers may find disturbing.]
Domestic violence and addiction often intertwine.
According to the American Society of Addition Medicine, studies have shown that substance abuse has been found to co-occur in 40-60 percent of intimate partner violence incidents. Several lines of evidence suggest that substance use/abuse plays a facilitative role in domestic violence by precipitating or exacerbating violence.
Substance abuse issues are not limited solely to the perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Some victims also turn to drugs and alcohol, often as a coping mechanism.
“We have found that domestic violence is often just one spoke in the wheel,” said Susan Binkley, founder and president of Blue Monarch.
Blue Monarch is one of the local organizations battling domestic violence, with the main goal of breaking the cycle and providing bright and healthy futures for the children of victims.
Blue Monarch is a residential recovery program in rural Coffee County, helping mothers who are survivors of abuse and struggling with addiction “to find healing and to restore their lives through Christian values.”
The organization offers shelter and various initiatives focusing on tackling domestic violence and providing the tools to survivors for living independently and safely.
Often, domestic violence also leads to drug use and addiction as a way to numb the pain, said Binkley.
“This ultimately causes a downward spiral in every direction,” she said.
The issue has a tremendous negative impact on children.
“Children are also affected,” Binkley said.
Many times, unhealthy couples stay together “for the sake of the children” but they don’t understand the harm witnessing a parent being abused causes to children, she added.
“Even if they are physically safe from the perpetrator, the emotional damage is just as significant,” she said.
If that trauma doesn’t get addressed is not healed, these children are more susceptible to becoming victims or abusers themselves in adulthood. That’s why providing a healthy environment and breaking the cycle is so important.
“We see many women who are suffering from generational cycles of abuse, addiction, poverty, and overall family dysfunction,” Binkley said. “It takes enormous courage and fortitude to step outside that pattern and break the cycle. Many times it causes the ‘pioneer’ in the family to become an outcast because it totally disrupts the family dynamics, and each family member’s purpose in that structure.”
According to Brinkley, some victims trying to break free from a dangerous situation not only lack family support but they are sometimes confronted by family members who try to stop the healing process.
“We have had numerous mothers who resented their daughters’ recovery here and did everything they could to sabotage their success,” Binkley said. “We even had one mother who hid drug paraphernalia under her daughter’s mattress, just hoping we would find it and discharge her from our program. She did this because she wanted her daughter to come back home and take care of her.”
The women Blue Monarch serves are often faced with a painful decision: choosing between their family and their recovery, said Binkley.
“We see many women who were taught to use drugs by a parent or grandparent in the same home,” she said. “So one’s recovery often requires a separation from family members who are still using.”
The new generation brings hope
The residents at Blue Monarch live with their children. Through the program, the children receive as much attention and treatment as their parents.
“We feel it is ultimately through the children we serve that we have the greatest opportunity to break the cycle,” Binkley said.
Binkley’s goal is to provide loving, calm and nurturing environment for the children who, prior to moving to Blue Monarch, had perceived witnessing fights, arguments and chaos at home as being normal.
“We want to become what seems ‘normal’ to that child, so he will want to repeat that with his own children one day,” Binkley said.
Binkley expressed hope the children will make that positive change.
“We are seeing this happen now,” she said.
For instance, Brinkley said, one boy who lived with his mother at Blue Monarch as a 4-year-old, now resides in West Tennessee.
“… he gets his grandparents to bring him back to Blue Monarch every year for spring break. This is what he remembers as the best time in his life,” she said. “We pray this will be what he wants to provide one day for his own children.”
Seeing the positive impact on the children brings hope and happiness to Binkley and others who dedicate their time to breaking the cycle.
It has also been very rewarding for Binkley to see the change in survivors after they realize life has much more to offer than they had previously realized. One of the main reasons for their change in attitude is seeing that an organization, such as Blue Monarch, values them enough to try to help them. Because of the way they had been raised and mistreated, these women never thought they were worth anybody’s time or effort.
“In the very beginning of Blue Monarch, I thought we were going to focus primarily on domestic violence,” Binkley said. “I learned very quickly this is a complicated issue that leads to even bigger problems. Domestic violence is such a common theme among our residents, and often such a part of the culture, they often don’t even recognize they are victims until they learn it is not a natural way of life. It is our job to show them they are worth much, much more. And it is so exciting when you see them grasp this concept for the first time – usually with tears in their eyes.”
Supporting the effort
The community can help organizations like Blue Monarch tackle the problem. In addition to providing financial support and volunteering, raising awareness and understanding the issue are essential.
“One thing that would help is a different attitude,” Binkley said. “For people who have never experienced domestic violence, there is always a tendency to ask, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ It is difficult to grasp the enormous mind control someone can have on another [person] and the level of fear that can create. Many times the perceived choices are between a beating and death – it is hard to imagine there are actually other choices.”
Many women leave and then return to their abuser numerous times before they leave permanently.
“But you never know when you might be the one who encourages [a victim] to leave that last time,” she said.
Any involvement with initiatives battling domestic violence is useful.
“Anything the community can do to help with the healing process is helpful,” Binkley said. “Leaving the abuser is just the first step in that healing process. It takes a very long time for a victim of abuse to see herself as God sees her, instead of how [her abuser] saw her. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work, so any organization that is helping her needs lots of resources.”
One way to help reduce domestic violence is to provide financial support to Blue Monarch. The organization provides housing for victims. Because of the limited amount of housing Blue Monarch can provide, there is a long waiting list for women who can use help.
The organization is now expanding.
“We are currently building four more cottages for our graduates,” Binkley said.
That is a costly and time-consuming project, which is only possible with the support of sponsors.
“The rain has made it difficult to get the cottages off the ground, but we are hopeful they will be completed in a few months,” Binkley said.
Three of the four cottages were funded by a couple and their family foundation, said Binkley.
“People could help by sponsoring a room or cottage,” she said. “They could contact [Director of Community Relations and Fundraising] Kate Cataldo about how this is structured. We prefer to get folks to help with the funding since we have a process to equip and furnish each cottage equally.”
For more information about supporting Blue Monarch, call Cataldo at 931-924-8900. To learn more about the organization, visit www.bluemonarch.org.
Elena Cawley can be reached by email at email@example.com.