Innocence Regained MAG

     Sometimes the smallest events can change aperson’s life forever. It may be a smile, a tear, a laugh, ora shout. A simple act of violence can shatter a child’s world;a kind word or a hug can increase a child’sself.

Every Wednesday, I and three otherhigh-school girls volunteer at a battered women’s shelter withDOVE (Domestic Violence Ended). In the house, there is a roomcalled the Children’s Workshop full of toys and games, artactivities and books to occupy the children’s time while theirmothers go to a support group. We babysit the children,ranging in age from a few months to fourteen years old, but tothe children and mothers, our time means much more thanbabysitting.

When the children and their mothers arriveat the shelter, they are scared, quiet and usually veryconfused. They have just been torn out of their homes andeveryday lives to live with complete strangers who have aspecial bond: they have all experienced domestic violence.They have all walked away from physical and emotional painresulting from out-of-control anger. Each woman and child hasa story; as time goes by, they heal, but in the shelter, theyare at their most fragile state.

Looking into theinnocent eyes of the children who peer up at you, one has towonder what happened. Volunteers are trained never to askchildren questions about their situation. If a child mentionsanything or acts in a suspicious manner, we must report theactions to the child’s mother, the office supervisor andrecord the event in the Children’s Log.

Volunteers aretrained to be creative, keep the kids active and make themfeel as welcome as possible. One of our favorite activities isFreeze Dance. The kids become so carefree when they hear themusic that they let loose and enjoy themselves. They don’tcare if they aren’t good dancers but have a good time, whichis all that matters.

The progress many children make atthe shelter is amazing. When they first arrive they areusually in shock. They are scared and hold back fromactivities. They can’t comprehend what has happened and whythey are there. They are not comfortable in their newenvironment, even though it offers safety and security insteadof hate and violence. The turmoil of their homes no longerexists and they are exposed to an upbeat, happyenvironment.

As much as these children love theirmothers, they need time apart, too. Tension is high at theshelter. The mothers are in agony and those feelings aretransferred to the child. At the Workshop, children have timeaway from their mothers to play with other children and thevolunteers. It is also a relief for the women – who needrespite from being mothers.

The experiences I have hadthere have transformed me. Before, I thought abuse onlyhappened to people who didn’t live near me or weren’t anythinglike me. It turns out that domestic violence happens to manypeople, and not just women, either. It happens in every townand city, and to people of all walks of life. Domesticviolence occurs too often. The women in this shelter haverealized they can no longer stay in their situation. Thechildren, scared and confused, are given a chance to regaintheir innocence, to be children again and to heal from thewounds of their past.

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