Women find a safer future

BROWNSVILLE — The second time Linda Galan called the police to report her abusive partner, an officer from the Brownsville Police Department told her something that would change her life forever.

He handed her a card and said, “You’re not alone. We can help you.”

The card the officer handed Galan had contact information for Friendship of Women, a nonprofit organization based in Brownsville that serves victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Two days after she received that card, Galan entered the building and since 2012 has been receiving counseling for herself and her three children.

For the past three months, it’s been difficult for Galan to meet her appointments.

The working mother relies on the Brownsville Metro transit system, and her work schedule can’t always accommodate her appointments. But she tries to keep them the best she can.

The center in Brownsville is one of 21 local social service organizations benefiting from the AIM Media Texas Charities second annual fundraising campaign.

The campaign was created by the parent company of the Valley Morning Star, The Brownsville Herald, The Monitor in McAllen and Mid-Valley Town Crier to help as many people and families as possible.

Gloria Ocampo, director for Friendship of Women, said the $6,360 donated to the organization by AIM Media charities in 2014-2015 has provided supplies, counseling services, utilities, program supplies, food and other essentials.

From 2014 to 2015, a total of 925 people were served at the organization, including 635 adults and 290 children. Officials said 118 of those served were 5 years old or younger.

Ocampo said one of the support groups for moms and children is called The Kids Club. Through the support group, children are able to explore their feelings and experiences of domestic violence.

Ocampo explained that oftentimes parents don’t understand that for a child to witness domestic violence is the same as experiencing the violence first-hand.

“I think there is a big misunderstanding between witnessing and experiencing. Emotional and verbal abuse is domestic abuse. When people say their child only witnessed the domestic violence, it is minimized,” Ocampo said.

Minimizing domestic violence in the home can be hazardous to the development of a child, Ocampo said.

She explained that when children who grow up in healthier homes are asked to describe violence, they relate violence to movies or cartoons. However, children who have experienced domestic violence in their home relate it with what they see their parents do.

The decision to leave her partner was a difficult one. Galan said she was told by her partner that because she received housing and was from Mexico she would lose her home if she ever called the authorities to report the abuse. At the time, she felt like she deserved to be mistreated, she said.

Galan said that with counseling from Friendship of Women she has been able to gain a new perspective and self-esteem.

“Now I love myself, and I want to be healthy for my children,” Galan said.