Domestic violence affects many more homes than people realize. At Penelope House, workers take between 150 and 200 calls a month.
“What they say in reality is one in four incidents are reported, so if you think about the number we’re seeing, there’s so much going on behind closed doors in people’s homes that’s never reported,” says Penelope House’s Executive Director Tonie Ann Torrans.
Penelope House provides shelter for adults and children escaping domestic abuse. They’re also trying to break the vicious cycle by talking to the younger generation, starting as early as age three. They say children that young are aware of what’s going on. Joan Duncan is the Community Outreach Educator and hears all the heartbreaking stories.
“You know, daddy was hitting mommy and I got between them to make him stop and he accidentally hit me and he broke my jaw, things like that,” says Duncan.
Domestic violence is learned behavior so if they can teach children and teens that it’s not normal, that’s one more person working to stop the trend.
In 2011, Alabama was second in the nation for the number of women killed by guns in a domestic violence situation. And while many agree with what the Penelope House is trying to accomplish, there are many who take offense at what they’re trying to do.
“Several years ago, a minister called and he said I want to come down there and talk to the women in that shelter and tell them if they were just better wives and mothers, this wouldn’t happen to them,” says Duncan.
They are used to the scrutiny, but maintain all they want is for everyone to be safe. Unfortunately, a person is least safe when they’re about to make a move, which is why experts say go to a shelter first.
“If you’re relocating, we can assist with relocations, we make sure you know of the shelters that are in that area where you’re relocating,” says Torrans.
For help, contact Penelope House at 251-342-2809 or the Lighthouse in Robertsdale at 251-947-6197.
Other shelters in the state include: the Family Sunshine Center in Montgomery 334-206-2100
House of Ruth in Dothan 334-793-5214
Crisis Center of Russell County in Phenix City 334-297-4435
Domestic Violence Intervention Center in Auburn 334-749-1515
2nd Chance in Anniston 256-236-7381
Harbor Haus Crisis Services in Cullman 256-734-6100
Daybreak in Jasper 205-387-1157
Kelley’s Rainbow in Albertiville 256-891-9864
Safeplace in Florence 256-767-3076
Crisis Services of North Alabama in Huntsville 256-716-4052
Safehouse of Shelby County in Pelham 205-669-1877
SABRA Sanctuary in Selma 334-877-4645