Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'm working on fleshing out my SHELTER ms. and thinking about the kids (aged 3-teen) I work with every week at a battered women's shelter. These kids and their courageous moms inspired my YA novel.

Some, but not all of these kids have been abused in various ways by their fathers. All have been affected by Dad hurting, scaring, and/or threatening Mom.

Unfortunately, CT seems to be especially well-populated with these cruel men. The Hartford Courant not only has an ongoing "Battered Lives" series of articles about domestic and dating violence, but also seems to regularly print stories of a local man killing his wife or girlfriend when she tries to divorce or leave him.

Even babies in the shelter show the effect of this incredibly tense life when they first arrive. They're often too quiet, don't smile much,don't protest when they're hungry, tired, or need a diaper change. After a week or two at the shelter, though, they start acting like babies should--demanding attention. (And getting it, as the older kids and other moms love to carry and play with babies, especially when they, themselves are feeling better).

The kids 3-12 arrive with serious trust issues,are usually anxious and/or depressed,yet often miss their dads, especially the boys. Not surprisingly, these children tend to keep their distance from women with visible injuries.

Nonetheless, the perception of safety at the shelter and the support kids receive quickly improve their moods or behavior. The most important help for these kids, however, is their mothers' recovery. Their mothers can attend support groups in English and Spanish at the shelter, even after they leave or even if they've never lived at the shelter.

My experience is that the longer the mothers attend these groups, the better the kids do.

Still, we are seeing the tip of the d.v. iceberg. Violence against girls (dating) and women has always been a problem. Now, with famous women "outing" themselves re: domestic or intimate partner violence, more women are trying to get away from these cruel men.

And that is when the real fight for their lives begins and is why I wrote SHELTER.

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