Mind & Spirit

How Turning Point is Stopping Abuse

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Turning Point received more than 2,000 crisis calls last year. Learn more about this nonprofit’s mission to confront domestic violence in McHenry County.

Jane Zamudio (left) and Jane Farmer oversee Turning Point, a Woodstock organization that provides shelter and services to families in McHenry County affected by domestic violence.

Sobering studies show that one in three women and one in seven men experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. It’s important to recognize the signs of domestic violence and provide reliable resources for the abused, but it’s not always clear to whom they can turn.

In McHenry County, the nonprofit Turning Point has become a beacon of hope and light for those suffering in silence.

“Just last year, there were 2,522 crisis calls, and we had 1,649 clients,” says Jane Farmer, executive director. “And those were the people who knew of us because of word-of-mouth. But what about all the people who don’t know?”

Jane Zamudio, associate director, adds that people often seek help when a relationship turns violent.

“They have often been victims of emotional and verbal abuse for a long time, but did not realize it was abuse because there was no physical violence,” she says. “Their abusive partner has convinced them that they are to blame for what is happening in the relationship. Because abuse is so prevalent, many adults and their children need a place where they can feel safe, understand what is happening to them and move toward abuse-free lives.”

Many people working hard behind the scenes help to provide a safe haven for those involved in domestic abuse.

“It is crucial in this day and age to get the word out and help individuals to realize they can get out of, or work on, a situation,” says Farmer. “Turning Point is a wonderful organization. We have tremendous staff working here that are here all the time for women, men and children.”

Turning Point’s mission is to confront violence against people in McHenry County, and its services don’t discriminate. Turning Point reaches all socioeconomic, educational and cultural populations.

It’s the only comprehensive, full-service domestic violence agency in the county. Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, counseling and support groups, and legal assistance for those who need to obtain orders of protection. Four staff members work with the courts.

The agency has existed for 37 years; its emergency shelter opened in 2007.

“Turning Point can assist with a protective order, place the victim and children in the shelter, and develop a safety plan that will keep the victim safer if he or she is not ready to leave the abusive partner,” says Zamudio.

The shelter prides itself on being a haven for someone who’s figuring out that next step.

“Turning Point has secure emergency shelter services with a five-foot fence surrounding the property, double-locked entry and windows that don’t open in the bedrooms,” says Farmer. “We are directly linked to the Woodstock police with a one-button push. The shelter and walk-in are surrounded by 26 cameras, and everyone has to be at the property for a specific domestic violence reason. There are 24-hour programs, and someone is available to answer the phone seven days per week. There is also a partner abuse wing upstairs, which is a court-ordered intervention program. It’s a 26-week program.”

Group and individual counseling is a big part of the healing process at Turning Point. The organization offers five counseling groups, two of which are Spanish-speaking.

“Counselors provide emotional support and education to help the victim understand what is happening and to recognize the tactics of power and control used against them by their partner,” says Zamudio.

The program is also designed to help stop the generational cycle of abuse.

“Abusive behavior is passed down through generations, as children model the behavior of their parents,” Zamudio adds. “Since 85 percent of victims are women, girls from abusive families often grow up to be victims themselves, and boys often grow up to abuse their own partners. When a family comes to Turning Point, this pattern is interrupted as the family members learn to recognize abuse and are taught healthy behaviors for relationships.”

Turning Point provides programming for everyone in the family, including children, who receive specialized services and counseling groups for children ages 6 through 12.

Childcare is available for women who need it. A separate portion of the building, with its own entrance, houses the Partner Abuse Intervention Program, aimed at those who abuse.

Advocates working within Turning Point strive to help clients create new lives free of abuse. Accordingly, those advocates can assist victims with finding housing, employment, childcare and medical services. Clients in the emergency shelter receive 30 days of housing, with the possibility of receiving another 30 days, should it be needed.

Farmer and Zamudio are making efforts to expand upon Turning Point’s prevention and education programming, in the hopes of impacting domestic violence before it starts. Efforts are underway to educate children and teens on healthy relationships and avoiding bullying behavior.

Zamudio says there are also plans to expand the Partner Abuse Intervention Program and increase outreach to underserved minority populations.

The organization thrives on volunteer support. It maintains about 40 full-time volunteers and another 100 part-timers.

Turning Point is also providing numerous services to help advance the lives of those who are served. There’s a food pantry available for those served by the organization, and it includes personal hygiene items, too, such as shampoo and toothpaste. If a woman and her children are staying at the shelter during the school year, transportation services can bring children to and from school. Clothing and school supplies are available, if needed. Additionally, women staying at the shelter can take advantage of McHenry County College services such as resume-building resources or classes that may help them to begin a new career.

“Women often come in with absolutely nothing,” Farmer says. “The women coming in are afraid and scared. Whatever a woman needs, we help with. There is no charge for victim services or our emergency shelter. Lots of times, they have not connected with their own families, so we help them to reconnect, and family can often help out with childcare. It all depends on what a woman needs. There are just a lot of things she needs to figure out during this time.”

Upcoming Events

Because it’s a nonprofit organization, Turning Point relies upon donations to support its mission. Upcoming fundraiser events include a pig roast on July 22 at Riverside Pub and Grill in east Crystal Lake and a radiothon with Star 105.5 radio on Aug. 10 and 11.

The public is invited to listen to the radio those days to learn more about Turning Point programs and services. That Saturday, coordinating events will be held at Niko’s Red Mill Tavern, in Woodstock, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Learn more at turnpt.org.

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