Matilda Raffa Cuomo & Catherine E. Shugrue
violence is a serious crime, and often even deadly. Every day
in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands
or boyfriends. Most studies indicate that women represent
at least 85% or more of those who are victims of intimate partner
violence. At HELP USAís seven New York City homeless
shelters, nearly 40% of our clients report having been victims
We know that services for survivors of domestic violence are provided
almost always by women, with a few notable (and wonderful) male
exceptions. Women mentoring women provide case management, housing
assistance, employment readiness, placement and training, child
care, educational and cultural activities, and self-esteem building
motivational workshops to these victims who have made the move
Every night, HELP Haven and HELP Harbor shelter 100 families,
led by women who have fled abuse. These women have made the courageous
and dangerous decision to leave the abusive relationship, some
with help from friends and family. Too many women are isolated
by the abuser and cut off from these supportive relationships.
A survivor is most likely to be injured or killed when she leaves
her abuser. Once she has found safety, it is extremely important
that qualified staff provide her with support, resources and positive
role models. All residents attend Womenís Support Group, where
we teach women to become mentors to one another, sharing information,
expressing the hope for change, and a better way of life.
In our collaboration with the Ackerman Institute for the Family
and City College of New York, our multi-generational groups bring
families together, in mutual support, from economic dependence
on the batterer, to economic self-sufficiency, and for some clients,
from welfare to work.
Our survivors who participate in HELP Advocacy Council learn to
bring their urgent issues to elected officials. Children are their
main concern, together with education, affordable housing, and
economic justice. Our programs enlist the efforts of women who
have succeeded and become Survivor Advocates. These women are
powerful mentors, who say with credibility, You can and will make
it. Iím here to help you.
HELP Haven and HELP Harbor are enthusiastic about working with
Mentoring USA to develop the first formal mentoring project located
in domestic violence shelters. Our trained mentors in the shelters
support the children who have lived with the domestic violence.
In a recent ABC TV interview, popular singer Christina Aguilera
shed light on the long-term effects of domestic violence she experienced
as a child, which lends poignancy to her recent hit single.
The unique Mentoring USA model also works within the context of
the childís family, and especially with his or her mother, who
is provided with role models, technical assistance, and is empowered
to strengthen her family. She has a chance to begin a new life
and give her children a future filled with hope.#
Raffa Cuomo is former first lady of New York State.
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