On November 4th, 2016, Linens N Love visited the Women's Transitional Living Center, an undisclosed home to around over sixty women and children at once.
The first thing our student leaders noticed was that the WTLC was difficult to find! "That's exactly what we love to hear," explained our tour guide Chris. "We want to create a safe haven for women and their families, and the last thing we want is for abusive people to seek out their victims at an easily found shelter."
Women are offered more than precious safety at the WTLC, though. Our student leaders were astounded to find that the Women's Transitional Living Center was nothing like the shelter we had in mind; instead, this women's shelter was more like a women's home. The dining area was recently renovated by the church, complete with fresh cheery paint and modern sleek tables. Other women were seated at the tables and chatting as the children ran around through the hallways, peeking in and out of doorways to stare at our passing tour group.
"Hi! Hi! Hi!" they called. "Hi!" we responded. These children were cheerful despite their situation, outgoing, and happy as they played their games throughout the corridors, ducking in and out of rooms squealing.
"Oftentimes our women come with children. We have a student learning center for them to stay on track with school. We've served at many as 28 students at once," Chris said. The student learning center was complete with computers and there was even a play area for the kids, stocked with supplies including markers, glitter, glue, and colored paper.
After we finished our tour, our student leaders gathered in the lobby for a reflection activity. We were able to enjoy our reflection activity with two staff members at the WTLC who discussed with our student leaders the importance of recognizing domestic violence and sexual abuse. "Abuse knows no boundaries," said one of the staff members solemnly. "Abuse will happen amongst the rich and poor, blacks and whites, old and young. Know when you're in an abusive situation. Know when someone else is in an abusive situation, and help them. Sometimes, you just have to listen. Just listen."
The numbers are horrifying. One in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female.
As each student discussed what this experience of donating the blankets and sheets meant to them, the importance of having these shelters available was stressed. "As a woman, seeing this shelter means a lot to me," frequently came up. It means safety, refuge, and kindness in a community.
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