Stories & Insights

5 Questions with Domestic Violence Program & Family Shelter Director Ashley Rogers

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we sat down with Crossroads' Director of Family and Domestic Violence Shelters Ashley Rogers to talk about domestic violence and homelessness and how Crossroads serves those affected by DV.

October 20, 2022

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we sat down with Crossroads' Director of Family and Domestic Violence Shelters Ashley Rogers. We discussed the far-reaching effects of domestic violence on those experiencing homelessness, how Crossroads meets their unique needs and the best ways to support survivors.

Crossroads: What brought you to Crossroads? And what inspired you to become a part of our Domestic Violence Program?

AR: I began my secondary education thinking that I wanted to become a pharmacist and had completed 4 years of a 6 year program. However, I always felt my calling was in social work and finally decided to pursue my dreams of becoming an advocate. I attended a program in Indiana where I graduated with my Master's in mental health and addiction support. After graduating, I had the opportunity to jump into the world of supporting Domestic Violence survivors and worked as a shelter manager and family therapist before making the decision to move back to Rhode Island to start my family.

I am originally from Pawtucket and was familiar with the work Crossroads does and really wanted to get involved. I began my career at Crossroads working overnights at the front desk at our headquarters before moving to the Family Center and then eventually becoming the Director of Family and Domestic Violence Shelters. This position is a fantastic opportunity to create synergy between the two programs, and my previous experience, as there is so much overlap between the two.

Crossroads: How does domestic violence affect homelessness?

AR: People tend to treat the need for victim services and homeless services as separate issues, but the needs of the clients experiencing them are oftentimes linked.

At Crossroads' Domestic Violence Program, nearly all, if not all, the clients we serve there are there because their homelessness was a direct result of domestic violence. We provide these individuals and families with a safehouse location while we help them create a safety plan and find them the housing and support services they need to overcome their homelessness. But these clients are not the only domestic violence survivors at Crossroads. Multiple clients in our Family Center, Women's Shelter, Harrington Hall and in housing are also survivors of domestic violence.

Statistically, we know that in the general population 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are affected by domestic violence. This would imply that at least 1/3 of the women we serve and 1/4 of the men we serve have experienced domestic abuse. And of course this isn't just limited to men and women; domestic violence affects all genders. Many of the clients we serve have experienced intergenerational trauma and poverty, which further increases the risk of experiencing domestic violence. This indicates that at least 50% of the those we serve have been affected by domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

Crossroads: What are some of the specialized, trauma-informed ways you and our Crossroads team serve our clients?

AR: The best way we can provide trauma-informed care is to assume that all clients we serve have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. Being homeless itself is a major trauma.

The trauma-informed care we provide extends from ensuring our case managers are making a human connection with our clients to the language we use to the awareness of the tone of voice and our body language. We take into consideration the different ways that we may unintentionally trigger our clients. We work to build trust between our advocates and clients and do our best to help them feel like they are very much a part of their own advocacy. We want them to know that we are working with them, not trying exert control over them.

Crossroads: In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is there anything you feel is important for people to know about domestic violence and those affected by it?

AR: It's important for people to know that, whether you are aware of it or not, someone you know and love has experienced Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence does not exist in a vacuum. Sometimes people look at domestic violence like it's part of a movie, and completely separate from our lives. Or they have a certain belief about how a survivor "should" behave in order to receive support or help. The truth of the matter is that the clients we serve have unique challenges that can be addressed with our help, and will never disqualify them from the support they need.

Lastly, domestic violence isn't just an issue that only needs to be addressed from the survivor's side. To truly remedy the situation, services need to be offered to those who are perpetrating the abuse. Typically, this violence is a learned behavior, and the way we can stop the abuse is to address and heal the damaged attachment style that these abusers demonstrate.

Crossroads: What is the best way to support someone going through a domestic violence situation?

AR: The best thing you can do for someone experiencing domestic violence is to refrain from passing judgment upon them. One of the biggest questions people have is "why didn't they just leave the situation?" It's usually never that simple. Some people don't have the financial means or support network to leave; if they left their abuser they could become homeless. Many mothers don't want to break up their family. Escaping an abuser can also present a life-threatening situation to a victim.

To provide support, you can offer to just be there. To listen to them. Please do not offer ultimatums to try to get them to leave their abuser or become angry with them if you feel they aren't listening to your advice. Domestic abuse is exceptionally isolating, and what survivors need is support. You can offer resources and a safe space for them without the expectation that they will make a change right away. You can plant the seed that might bloom later to help them find a way out of an abusive situation.

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