Help abuse victims

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Somewhere behind closed doors, in the privacy of a family’s home — possibly even as you read this sentence — someone right here in Suffolk is being physically or emotionally tormented by an abusive spouse or significant other.

Domestic abuse happens in secret. Its victims all too often are too afraid or ashamed to report their predicament. They live in fear not just of the next physical or emotional lashing, but also of the repercussions they will face if their abuser is found out. Stay in the home and endanger yourself or your children; leave the home and risk making the abuser even angrier. That’s the choice that victims of domestic violence often face.

Locally, the Genieve Shelter was founded to help abuse victims, especially women, make the decision to move out of abusive situations and to do so safely. A few years ago, the organization built CJ’s place, a shelter for abused women and their children from the Western Tidewater area. Between that shelter and the organization’s other facilities, during the 2010 fiscal year, 138 people were given refuge from abusive situations and set onto new life paths. During the first six weeks of the 2011 fiscal year, 50 people already have received help from Genieve.

“More people are needing our services, and we’re doing our best to meet that need with fewer dollars and fewer staff,” Val Livingston, Genieve Shelter’s executive director, said recently. At the same time, facing problems similar to those that beset most nonprofit entities today, the shelter receives less government support and has watched its donations shrink.

During October, which has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the organization is working especially hard — not just to raise money but to raise awareness of the plight of the victims of domestic abuse. A variety of events is planned, including a candlelight vigil in downtown Suffolk on Thursday, a “Walk for Hope” on Oct. 23 and a masquerade gala on Oct. 29.

The secrecy that covers domestic violence serves as a sort of mask, hiding the identities of its victims and perpetrators, as well as the extent of the damage that is done. Take some time this month to look behind the mask. Visit to learn more about the problem or to learn more about the solution that the Genieve Shelter offers and learn how you can help.