Camille: An Advocates Perspective
Pamela came to Alexandra House’s emergency shelter because she could not defend herself and knew she had to escape her husband. She didn’t know what to do next, but she knew she couldn’t go back to what she was living in. As Pamela walked through the doors of Alexandra House, Camille already knew who she was. Camille knew Pamela felt helpless. She knew that she was making a decision she didn’t want to make, and that people don’t fall out of love overnight, even when someone is hurting them. Camille knew that Pamela wasn’t ready to leave, but she also knew that she wasn’t alone, and she was going to help her through her journey, every step of the way.
“Pamela had made a big decision. A scary one. Yet, she was grateful. She appreciated that I was there listening to her and helping her along the way.”
Every day as an Advocate, Camille walks in the door, and checks the board to see if her program participants are still in the shelter. She answers the phones handling crisis calls, and hospital calls, and chases kids around early in the morning. Every day is a journey for Camille, alongside her participants, together towards a life free from violence. Camille’s wish for every person who walks through the door is for them to look back and say that they finally did it. She didn’t want Pamela to make promises to herself. She had just left two days ago. She didn’t want Pamela to promise herself anything. She helped Pamela take time to absorb everything. She gave Pamela time. Time to process, time to reflect, and time to start again.
“I didn’t just help her. She helped me too. Pamela taught me to listen, to understand, and to believe.”
Camille knows why it is so important to be an advocate. There’s so much abuse going on in the world, and many versions of it don’t leave visible scars. She knows the mental, verbal, emotional, and physical faces of abuse. She knows how important it is to listen to someone who has been suffering silently for too long. Camille listens, and she helps survivors find their voice. She knows that Pamela was abused long before she, herself recognized it. She offered her support with things that she was deprived of during the abuse. Pamela had to re-learn how to do things that her abuser didn’t allow her to do. She was able to find her voice and find the strength to say yes and no to things on her own terms.
“My job as an advocate is to teach women how much strength and power they actually have.”
Camille and other advocates are there to help. They are there to educate and to offer support with job placement, community resources, housing, independent living skills, budgeting, basic needs support, and safety planning. Alexandra House advocates are there to show participants a path, remove barriers, and guide the way. Camille is there to get people on their own two feet and make their own decisions, something survivors have been unable to do for a long time. Whatever decision a person decides to make, Camille will back them. She will see them through.
When Camille reflects on Pamela’s journey, she is filled with pride. She knows that Pamela has found her voice and is on her way. Camille feels so passionately about her job and believes in the mission of Alexandra House. She loves the people she works with and even the challenges that come with helping survivors like Pamela achieve their seemingly impossible dreams of a life free from violence. She is inspired by how far the people she works with come, the smiles on their faces even when they’re struggling along, and is always showing people that they matter. She believes in hope and knows this is what Alexandra House stands for.
Our Emergency Shelter and the Rapid Rehousing Program are vital in empowering our victims/survivors and serving our community. It would be an understatement to say that the work done by our advocates is incredibly challenging. They see people—every day—at the worst moments of their lives—in extreme crisis. Advocates help victims get their life back, which means developing safety plans, case management, housing and financial assistance, emotional support, and so much more meant to help in those first days after victims leave a violent relationship.
And while not every person who benefits from Alexandra House’s services stays in our emergency shelter – the impact of what we do at Alexandra House ripples beyond those directly affected by domestic and sexual violence. Just as when there is violence in a community, it harms everyone living in it. Survivors reported that if a domestic violence shelter didn’t exist, the consequence for them would be dire, including homelessness, loss of their children, actions taken in desperation, continuing to experience abuse…or death.
We’re so grateful for dedicated, passionate advocates like Camille, who are the lifeline for those we serve, and our programs rely on those passionate individuals working on the front lines of supporting our most vulnerable community members.
On behalf of all of us at Alexandra House, thank you for being a part of our community. We wish you and your family health, safety, and happiness and want you to know that together, we can overcome all things.
AS YOU CONSIDER THE SIZE OF YOUR YEAR-END GIFT, PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE MAGNITUDE OF THE CHALLENGE OUR COMMUNITY IS FACING:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the US have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Intimate partner violence alone affects more than 12 million people every year.
- Among families, domestic violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness.