About a hundred people gathered at the south end of Scoville Park in Oak Park last Thursday to participate in a rally sponsored by Sarah’s Inn. 

Carol Gall, the Executive Director of Sarah’s Inn, explained, “October is Domestic Violence Community Action Month, and for seven years we have held a kickoff event like this in a public space to raise awareness about the issue and to call people to action throughout the month.”

Speakers included a victim of domestic violence who gave a testimony regarding how Sarah’s Inn helped her not only escape the violence she was experiencing, but also a neurophysicist who detailed how blows to the face and head can result in brain damage.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”

A counselor at Sarah’s Inn named Wanda confirmed that men are victims of domestic violence as well as women. The NCADV reported that “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic str ess disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.”

Wanda, whose last name has been withheld to protect her privacy, said she has been working with victims of domestic violence for 20 years. She said she works in close collaboration with the police officers in the area. 

“Most of the time,” she said, “the police are the first responders on the scene. They call us when the client is out of danger, and the police want to know what to do next. The discussion is about where to refer the client, to a hospital or the agency or a shelter. We do our best to work together.”

When counseling clients, after establishing rapport, her main objective is to determine what the clients’ needs are and then work with him or her to figure out how those needs can be met. 

Clients come to Sarah’s Inn sometimes by calling their crisis line, while at other times friends or family members refer them. Many come through the court system. Sarah’s Inn places advocates in the court houses in Cook County to work with people seeking an order for protection from a judge. Gall said that there are judges in the family court who are trained regarding how to respond to domestic violence and the advocates can help victims sort out their legal options.

“We do not have an on-site shelter,” Gall said, “though we are beginning to provide transitional housing and rapid rehousing in collaboration with Housing Forward for victims and their families. Additionally, Sarah’s Inn provides emergency financial assistance to clients for rent, mortgage and utilities to help them stay safe and stable.”

She said that Sarah’s Inn serves 23,000 people a year. In the agency’s intervention program, 1,400 adults and 150-00 children were served. In addition to directly helping in a crisis, Sarah’s Inn does a lot of education and awareness raising. Staff members work with local schools and churches. 

When working with kindergartners, Sarah’s Inn staff members focus on healthy relationships instead of bringing up violence per se. 

“Last year,” Gall said, “we piloted a kindergarten program in which we teach healthy ways to resolve conflicts. With older students, we address dating violence and clarify what sexual assault is. We also address the impact of technology and the need to set boundaries.”

The agency does a training with the police departments every year. Gall said, “We train officers to make sure they are up to date with the current laws at least once a year, so they feel comfortable and up to date with changes in the law.”

Sarah’s Inn was founded in 1980 by a group of concerned professionals at a time when not many services were available for victims of domestic violence and their families. The first service put in place was a 24-hour crisis line,

Many in attendance at the rally were motivated to come because, they said, they had seen the effect of violence on their families or friends.

To volunteer, call 708-386-3305 or email volunteering@sarahsinn.org.

All victims who are in need of services or support should call the agency’s 24-hour crisis line: 708-386-4225