After hearing the impressive presentation given by Butler intern Katie Clark a few weeks ago, we asked her to share her thoughts with us about her experience. Here’s what she sent to us.
As a student of criminology and psychology at Butler University, I was required to complete an internship this summer as part of my degree. I was fortunate enough to land the internship position at Coburn Place, where I had the pleasure of working with the team from June until August.
Going into the internship, I had not been exposed to many issues associated with domestic violence, therefore I had a fairly naive view of why women stay in domestic abuse situations, but a keen interest in learning more. As far as I was aware, women may be too afraid to leave their abuser due to the potential violent repercussions if they were found, and perhaps that they may be worried about supporting their children on their own. I also understood that based on social learning theory, children exposed to violence were more likely to learn and imitate such behavior later in life.
To describe my experience at Coburn Place anything other than a learning journey would be selling it short. To begin with, I learned about the nature and extent of the different forms of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual, verbal and economic. In applying the power and control model to the real life stories of women who have endured such abuse, I was able to better recognize the dysfunctional motives of the abuser, while developing a deeper understanding of why women feel so trapped that they stay, or worse – leave and then return.
The power and control model places special emphasis on how victims have their power removed from their everyday life, thus leaving them a shell of their prior self, with virtually no confidence and in a state of dependence on their abuser. I can’t stress enough how important the role that low self esteem plays in causing women to feel that there is no way out of their situation.
The Theory of Change model followed by the Coburn team takes this vital factor into account, as special priority is given to encouraging residents to make decisions for themselves and rebuild their sense of self efficacy. In their vulnerable state of powerlessness, the women at Coburn Place are provided with the necessary resources to regain self empowerment in their healing journey towards independence and self sufficiency for the long term.
During my time at Coburn Place, I got a real feel for the values enforced in order to maintain a warm, caring environment, particularly the promotion of developing good relationships built on trust and respect. One of the chronic effects of being in an abusive relationship is being cut off from one’s social networks and family as abusers engage in isolation tactics in their bid for control over the victim. The construction of friendships and support networks again is therefore an essential part of rebuilding victims’ confidence and independence.
I learned a vast amount across several fields, making it one of the most valuable experiences of my college career. The research I carried out both with Coburn Place for their evaluation project, and on my own time to enhance my experience, opened my eyes to the hardships and dynamics of a very vulnerable group within the United States; abused women.
The Coburn team is one that I sincerely hope to stay in touch with, and that I feel privileged to have been a part of this summer. As I said, at the beginning of the internship, I struggled to understand why women stayed in abusive relationships, but after listening and reading real life cases, I now think that it is a miracle when any woman does find the strength to leave. I have a newfound respect for anyone who works towards changing the lives of those who have suffered domestic violence, it is a cause that is highly deserving of any recognition it attracts and more. Thank you Coburn Place for such a valuable experience, and all that you do all year round for those in need.