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Neville House Shelters Local Domestic Violence Survivors

Senna Adjabeng

An act of domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds in the U.S., translating to over 2.5 million victims a year, according to Mid Central Community Action (MCCA).

McLean County's domestic violence shelter, Neville House, served nearly 750 local residents last fiscal year. Ninety-one percent of them were women.  

Senna Adjabeng is director of the Countering Domestic Violence Program at MCCA, which oversees the shelter.

"A lot of victims would not just admit that they're victims because domestic violence doesn't happen to strangers," Adjabeng said. "These are people that you have a domestic relation, this is someone you know—someone you care about."

The process starts with a call into MCCA's 24-hour hotline. Adjabeng called this the "entry point to survivors seeking services." From there, the process is different for everyone.

A safety assessment, also called a lethality assessment, is usually completed to determine the victim’s need. The assessment ranges from level one, which determines the existence of verbal abuse, up to physical abuse in level four.

To determine the level of threat, the hotline advocate asks questions like:

  • Has your partner yelled at you or said offensive things to you?
  • Does your partner criticize your character or your behavior?
  • Has your partner threatened you with a weapon?
  • Has your partner threatened to kill you or themselves?
  • Does your partner hit you?

Once the lethality is determined, the victim is provided a range of resources. Adjabeng said the resources are comprehensive because “domestic violence doesn’t just happen once, or it’s not just one presenting issue. There are usually other dynamics around it.”
The victims are given the freedom to choose what services are best for them. Advocates for MCCA and the Neville House will not give advice, judge, or point out what changes need to be made in the relationship. Adjabeng said telling the victim what to do only furthers the violence.

"The dynamic of domestic violence is power and control," Adjabeng said. "They've been told what to do so many times. And so what we don't do is repeat the same thing. That would look controlling without even realizing."

Higher lethality levels give victims the option to admit into the Neville House or to get assistance in obtaining an order of protection. Available services range from immediate safety to supportive services to long-term healing.

"It goes with an escalation ... because that's what domestic violence is,” Adjabeng said. “It doesn't just happen with the physical. We have verbal, mental abuse, we have financial abuse, we have sexual abuse."

Adjabeng said the Neville House is the No. 1 solution for victims in need of immediate safety, providing them the time and space to figure out their next steps. Victims can stay at the Neville House for anywhere between six to eight weeks, depending on their needs. Adjabeng said the location of the shelter is kept confidential for security reasons and victims must call into the hotline in order to be admitted.

MCCA partners with advocates at the courthouse to assist victims in completing order of protection paperwork. Those advocates also help educate the victims on the legal process and accompany them to the courthouse.

“It's tough enough to go through domestic violence, and then it's tough enough to navigate the court system. So having someone who is experienced and educated about that system and having that support going to court is really helpful to victims,” Adjabeng said.

Long-term healing options include counseling, therapy, and specialized trauma treatment for children. Adjabeng stressed the importance of providing care to children who have experienced or seen domestic violence.

"Seventy percent of those kids will be fine when they grow up if there's that type of intervention,” Adjabeng said. “Without that intervention, you're looking at kids growing up who are potential offenders and potential victims."

Credit Countering Domestic Violence Program
Counselors with MCCA and the Neville House use the Power and Control Wheel to point out unhealthy relationship behaviors.

Counseling sessions include pointing out the differences between healthy behavior in relationships and unhealthy behavior. Adjabeng said advocates with MCCA and Neville House use two wheels, the Power and Control Wheel and the Equality Wheel, to show victims the difference in behavior.

"People grow up with what they know,” Adjabeng said. “You would have someone who has experienced physical abuse, whether it's child abuse growing up, and the yelling and all of that is so normal growing up that they would not see it as abuse. They would see it as very normal."

Financial abuse is also often not realized as a form of abuse. Financial abuse includes tracking the victim at their job, abusing the victim so they cannot attend their job, and taking the victim's money. Adjabeng said pointing out these behaviors to the victim in counseling is all about showing them “the healthy perspective.”

Working with Abusers

While Countering Domestic Violence is a victim service program, there are local resources for abusers seeking help addressing their behavior.

Adjabeng pointed out Avert Collaborative Solutions, Twin Cities Behavioral Health, and Chestnut Health Systems.

"We recognize that the basis of addressing the domestic violence issue is keeping victims safe and holding offenders accountable," Adjabeng said.

A major focus of the Countering Domestic Violence Program is providing public awareness and education so that victims are aware of their resources and the community is aware of how they can help, Adjabeng said.

"When I go out and talk about domestic violence and the first question I hear is, 'Well why didn't she leave?' That tells me there's still that stigma about victim blaming,” Adjabeng said. “You have to keep talking about dynamics and the reason why individuals stay, because there are so many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship and when they're ready and with that support, they would leave."

The hotline number and entry point for all of MCCA and Neville House’s domestic violence services is (309) 827-7070.

You can also listen to the full interview:

GLT's full interview with MCCA.

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