Art therapy

Art therapy is a big part of counseling, specifically for youngsters, at WomenShelter.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Typically, WomenShelter Executive Director Mary Ellen Mitchell and her partners around Long Beach would be planning a major event to draw awareness to realities of domestic violence and domestic abuse. But it is 2020, and major events are frowned upon, thanks to coronavirus.

So instead, the nonprofit has come up with a day-by-day approach delivered via email and website. The campaign is called "We Have Work To Do," and tries to cut the complex issue of domestic violence into digestible bites, increasing awareness of the problem, and the ways to combat it.

"It's designed as a way to connect with everyone every day of the month," Mitchell said. "There are a number of topics to read, from domestic violence statistics to self care. ON the final day, we'll do a virtual meeting and talk about how to be an asset in the fight.

"This year is quite different than prior years and we appreciate the support of the Port of Long Beach in making it happen."

There is a full month of varied material — for example, this week featured a definition of the domestic violence issue on Monday:

"Domestic violence is a complex issue affecting millions across the globe. A critical step in preventing future violence is ensuring that individuals have the knowledge and tools to answer the following question: what is domestic violence? Today and throughout this month, we will share information to help you answer this question."

Get to Wednesday, and there's an article about the importance of “Domestic Violence – Communities of Color,” an article by The Women of Color Network (WOCN). Make it to Saturday, Oct. 10, and there is the reward of "self-love" activities with three WomenShelter staff members.

To find out what's happening every day, people can go to the WomenShelter calendar at www.womenshelterlb.org/dvam20/. Or to get email updates, subscribe to WomenShelter's newsletter at Gazettes.com/go/wslb.

Not only has the coronavirus pandemic forced awareness efforts online, it has exacerbated the problem of domestic violence in general, Mitchell said. 

"We've talked about it before — it's difficult to know what's happening in those homes," Mitchell said. "People are at home, they're frustrated, they're not working, income is a stretched. Our hotline calls are up; we've had calls from women on cell phones in the backyard in the bushes.

"Coronavirus itself is being used as a weapon," she added. "They (abusers) say they'll give them (victims) COCID, and if they get COVID they'll be deported. It's a struggle."

One of the plusses of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Mitchell said, is the change to emphasize again that WomenShelter is open, available and willing to help.

"We have a space for you," she said. "If you're not ready (to leave), we'll help you plan for when you are ready. Our shelters are operating, and if we don't have space there, we'll find space for you."

Most victim counseling is done virtually, over Zoom, Go To Meeting or Skype. The exception is youth counseling, which is typically done in person at the Resource Center on Long Beach Boulevard, Mitchell said. Education and prevention programs have been prepared for schools as well.

More information about Domestic Violence Awareness Month resources and WomenShelter services can be found at www.womenshelterlb.org. The office number is 562-437-7233. The 24-hour emergency hotline is 562-437-4663.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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