Avalon, Williamsburg Police Department host event on domestic violence

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Community members gathered Oct. 24 in the Williamsburg Community Center for Avalon's In Her Shoes event.

Wednesday, Oct. 24, Avalon Center partnered with the Williamsburg Police Department to host the event In Her Shoes, a role play and discussion to spread awareness about domestic violence. 

Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Widenhouse said that the event, which took place at the Williamsburg Community Center, aimed to answer questions about why some women who experience abuse do not leave and address the circumstances that make it difficult for them to do so.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why doesn’t she just leave?’ and if she does leave, then everything should be okay,” Widenhouse said. “But there’s so much more that comes after the leaving. Where do you go? How do you pay for what comes next?”

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why doesn’t she just leave?’ and if she does leave, then everything should be okay,” Widenhouse said. “But there’s so much more that comes after the leaving. Where do you go? How do you pay for what comes next?”

Widenhouse emphasized that not everyone has access to resources that can allow them to leave abusive relationships. 

In her work at Avalon, she said the shelter has seen women who do not have the income to support themselves or their children. She also said that they don’t always have a car, which makes it difficult to travel to work or social services. 

“There’s so many more barriers and obstacles that we take for granted in our everyday life to be able to have a car and have the ability to safely walk throughout the world without fearing that someone is [going to] harm us,” Widenhouse said. “Avalon really aims to address all of those obstacles and work individually, case by case, so that someone can feel like they’re able to rebuild and move past some of the abuse.” 

Volunteers participated in scenarios that focused on the dynamics of abusive relationships. 

Scenarios highlighted the complexity of potential cases by including legal complications or situations where hesitancy was a factor. Participants engaged in various hypothetical roles, ranging from long-time partners to college students. 

They would begin with a card and make decisions, moving step-by-step to improve their situations. Choices included contacting police, family members, church members, domestic violence centers and counseling centers. 

After the event, Widenhouse talked about the Avalon Center’s close relationship with the Williamsburg Police Department.

“In a lot of ways, domestic violence intersects with the law, and they help us with lethality screenings,” Widenhouse said. “If a police officer is called out to a scene where they believe abuse is happening, they’ll do a lethality assessment protocol, and if there is a high risk of someone being killed, the police will contact Avalon immediately. We work with the police to make sure people in the community are safe, and that if we are alerted to a domestic abuse issue, we work in conjunction with each other to address it.”

Williamsburg Senior Police Officer in the Community Engagement Bureau Aundrea Holiday discussed how important it is for the police department to spread awareness of domestic violence.

“It is so important that people understand that when people need help, that they have the avenues to get that help,” Holiday said. “You could just be somebody on the street, and you can point somebody in the right direction, or just point them in the direction of the police department, so that the police department could get them some help. I think that domestic violence is a really important issue.We work a lot with Avalon as far as that goes.” 

Volunteer Sarah Raymond ’21 talked about her involvement. 

“I’ve heard about it since my freshman year here, and I think it’s a great cause,” Raymond said. “I hadn’t been really exposed to a lot of events that surrounded the discussion of domestic violence.” 

“I’ve heard about it since my freshman year here, and I think it’s a great cause,” Raymond said. “I hadn’t been really exposed to a lot of events that surrounded the discussion of domestic violence.” 

Raymond discussed what this event meant to her, and how it opened her to understanding the complexities of abusive relationships.  

“This showed me how many different forms domestic violence can come in,” Raymond said.  “It’s not just physical — it can be mental. There are so many different types and reasons that people are stuck in situations. It’s not just they don’t want to leave, it’s that they can’t often. The other factors that affect it like not knowing the language, having children and just so many different things I hadn’t thought about. This event showed me that there are so many other things to take into account.” 

Widenhouse stressed that domestic violence can manifest itself in different ways and that Avalon tries to act as a support system that is aware of those manifestations.