Domestic Violence Victims Empowered By Fundraiser

By: 
Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Four years ago a woman named Anna left her home in Europe for a vacation in the U.S.  After arriving, she met a preacher’s son and was “tricked” into marrying him. He immediately changed into a “control freak” who entrapped her by spending her money, taking her green card and phone, and making her believe that she would be in trouble with the law if she tried to find help. She was verbally, emotionally and economically abused, and because of her financial loss, she lost her European house. Eventually, she escaped from the situation and stayed temporarily in different shelters. But, she didn’t regain her confidence and feel safe until she was accepted into Place at the Lake, Benton County’s domestic and sexual violence resource center.
Anna said that when she was taken into Place at the Lake (PALS) several months ago, she was emotional, crying and hysterical, but the Lord told her to call their hotline and there was a room for her that had just opened up.  After only a short period of time, her seizures came down, as well as stress and medicines. She said that it is a Christian-based shelter which is awesome, and the place is beautiful with fantastic support from the staff. She has been put in charge of organizing the PALS fundraiser that is coming up August 24-25, and it has boosted her confidence tremendously. 
“I was told by my abusive husband that if I left him, or went to a domestic violence shelter, I would be arrested and jailed as he didn’t file the immigration papers,” said Anna. “He said that I was illegal. I believed this, so felt trapped and had no one to turn to. I was totally alone. But what he told me is not true. I want other women who are being held against their will, because they were deceived & brought here from abroad to be abused, robbed or used for sex trafficking to know that there is a special section in immigration for victims of domestic abuse and entrapment. You can go to any shelter in America! They can and will help you, give you a safe place to stay, and find you an attorney to take your case. Often, many work for free on cases for victims of entrapment & domestic abuse of immigrants. So, please don’t think you are trapped forever like I did. Call the hotline for domestic abuse. Walk in to your nearest police station or stop a police car if you have to.  Even the police will help. You have the same rights as any other victim to be protected and kept safe from your abuser! Without Place at the Lake and another shelter I went to, I would never have known that most shelters don’t even know about U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (uscis.gov) that spells out the rights of people like me. I only learned about this from an attorney.
Anna is trying to give back to the shelter by volunteering every day in its PALS Treasures Thrift Store at 201 E. Main Street in Lincoln. She also talks to other victims who come to the shelter to give them hope that they will survive their past abuse. She has moved out of the shelter and is being helped by a partner while she works with a legal advisor on her immigration status.  She is presently not able to get a job or benefits because of the lack of the green card, but is going through the immigration process that may take as long as two years.
Place at the Lake is a faith-based, non-profit organization that provides shelter, education, advocacy and empowerment so domestic and sexual violence survivors can affect positive change. The victims who seek help from the shelter can suffer from sexual violence; physical, psychological, emotional, verbal and economic abuse.  PALS provides education, legal and medical resources, hospital advocacy and helps victims with employment searches, resume building, furnishings and clothing, life skills classes and emergency shelter. But most of all, the shelter and its staff provide love and encouragement to rebuild self-confidence.
The all-volunteer center began organizing in 2006 by a group of ladies who said that domestic violence was terrible and decided to do something about it. PALS Treasures, the group’s thrift store, opened in 2008 and is one of the only stores that receives and sells used furniture. The shelter opened in 2012 and can house up to nine people (a combination of adults and children). The shelter often houses victims who are on the run from abusers in other parts of Missouri and other locations.  It helps men, women and children of all ages, and teens who report sexual abuse can be referred to helpful resources.  
“There are more women than men who request help,” said Judy Cline, President and shelter manager. “That is probably because men are less likely to report abuse.  Men seem to suffer more from financial and emotional abuse.”
Although PALS is generously supported by local businesses, churches and individuals, its financial needs are substantial in order to maintain the shelter facilities.  A fundraiser entitled PALS Thrift Store Outdoor Flea Market and Fun Day is planned for August 24-25 from 9 AM to 4PM to help with expenses at the shelter. It will be held in the parking lot at the thrift store and there will be hamburgers and hot dogs, a bake sale, and an auction of items donated by local businesses on Saturday at 1:30 PM. There will also be children’s activities including animal balloons and face painting. A ten-foot vendor booth is $20 and an eight-foot table can be rented for an extra $10. Vendor and attendee information can be obtained by calling 240-210-3740.
“We always need volunteers at the store, on the Board of Directors and those qualified to work with clients,” said Donna Harms, Vice-President. “We especially have the need for organizations to plan and hold fundraisers for us. Many of our volunteers are advanced in age and need help with this extra responsibility.”  
Call the CRISIS HOTLINE number 866-374-9044 if you or someone you know wants to discuss forms of violence or get assistance.
 

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