Domestic violence awareness month highlights statistics and hope

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. And on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. These and many more heartbreaking statistics are shared during the month of October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but Catholic Charities program director of the Jackson Shelter for Battered Families, Sarah Bradley wants everyone to be aware of these statistics every month.

She says that in Mississippi 39.7% of women and 31.7% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. “In one day Mississippi domestic violence programs served 354 adult and child survivors. Mississippi dropped from fifth highest in the nation to number 22 in the number of females murdered by men,” said Bradley.

“The statistics on domestic violence are distressful and concerning. The COVID pandemic has heightened stress among households which results in stress being taken out on their loved ones,” said Bradley.

Domestic violence is also a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. This is one reason the Jackson Shelter for Battered Families is designed to help victims or survivors of abuse and their children during this critical time by utilizing a trauma informed approach to shelter care, says Bradley. The shelter provides emergency temporary safe housing for up to 30 days, emotional support, counseling, referral assistance, court advocacy and other supportive services as needed.

This year, funds raised from Catholic Charities annual Purple Dress Run will help support the shelter by bringing about awareness of domestic violence and human trafficking. This year, the event will be held at the District at Eastover in Jackson and includes a costume contest and prizes awarded to the best dressed.

To support the Jackson Shelter for Battered Families, you can register for the Purple Dress Run or donate to the cause at www.raceroster.com/47392.

If you need assistance escaping abuse, please call Catholic Charities Jackson at (601) 366-0222 or 1-800-273-9012; or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or chat online at www.hotline.org.

Featured photo…Elizabeth Smart shares powerful story…

JACKSON – On Sept. 14, Elizabeth Smart shared her powerful story with the audience gathered at the Jackson Convention Center for Catholic Charities Journey of Hope. Even after nine horrifying months in captivity, Smart was able to rise above the horrible things that happened to her and now advocates for the need to recognize and end human trafficking around the globe. (Photo by Tereza Ma)
JACKSON – Catholic Charities executive director, Wanda Thomas, Elizabeth Smart and Bishop Joseph Kopacz stop for a photo op. (Photos by Karen Brown)
Bishop Kopacz walks through the Catholic Charities Journey of Hope event greeting guests on Sept. 14. (Photos by Tereza Ma)

Elizabeth Smart to speak at annual Charities Journey of Hope

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – Abducted at age 14 from her Utah family home in 2002 in a kidnapping that drew national media coverage, Elizabeth Smart spent nine months in captivity and had no idea if she would ever see her parents, siblings and friends again.

Very close to parents who brought her up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smart leaned hard on her faith during her ordeal.

“I was raised believing the family unit was forever,” she said. “Even if I had died while in captivity, there would still be a brother or grandparent – my family would still be a family. Conversely, if I got home and learned one of my parents had died, I knew I would see them again one day, and we would still be a family. That was a very large source of comfort to me.”

Now 34 and married with three small children, the national bestselling author will sign copies of My Story and Where There’s Hope at Bravo Restaurant of Jackson at a meet-and-greet from 6-8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 13. She’s the keynote speaker the following day at the annual Journey of Hope luncheon, presented by Catholic Charities, Inc. at the Jackson Convention Complex.

In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, Smart is president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which focuses on fighting sexual exploitation, advocacy, and prevention education. Not surprisingly, she is quite passionate about using her platform to help young girls and women who may not realize they are at risk.

Smart, however, was hardly ready to discuss what had happened to her in the immediate aftermath. And while it took the case against captor Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, a whopping eight years to go to trial, a silver lining of having to testify in open court about what she endured was Smart deciding she was ready to go public with her story and begin her advocacy.

“I initially swore I would never do a book, a movie,” Smart said. “When I first got home (in 2003), I didn’t really understand what therapy was. In the first 48-72 hours I was taken to a children’s advocacy center where I was extensively interviewed by two middle-aged male psychiatrists.”

“They were very religious and good at their jobs, but I’d been abused – a lot – for nine months in just about every way you can imagine by middle-aged men who used religion to manipulate. Speaking to men so graphically about being raped was horrific, devastating. When I got out of that room, I thought, ‘If this is what therapy is, I don’t ever want to do it again.’

“Looking back, those men were investigators gathering evidence, and they were doing their jobs. They weren’t therapists, and I believe in therapy 100 percent,” Smart said. “After the trial, I realized my story deserved more than a list of ‘bullet points.’ I knew there was value in it because what I went through could help people understand and change, provide some amount of hope in their lives. That’s what pushed me to tell my story, to become involved in pieces of legislation.”

Smart will bring a message of situational awareness to her audiences in Jackson, as well as one of deep, abiding faith for young girls and women who’ve suffered.

“My favorite campaign that we do for the Elizabeth Smart Foundation is ‘We Believe You,” which is in support of victims knowing we believe them,” she said. “If you doubt their story, that can set the trajectory for whether they pursue healing in a positive or negative way: ‘If Mom didn’t believe me, no one will.’ It’s a poison that can kill you from the inside out.

“I want females to know they’re daughters of God, and that He loves them more than they can ever imagine. I want them to recognize that everything taken away from them and everything that caused them distress can be healed,” said Smart.

Journey of Hope luncheon: Tuesday, Sept. 14 from 12-1 p.m. at the Jackson Convention Complex. Elizabeth will speak for 30 minutes and will be followed by Johanna Beeland of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, who will speak on human trafficking in our state.

Human trafficking prevention and victim services to be featured at
Journey of Hope

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – Human trafficking, including the kind of torture and suffering Elizabeth Smart went through for almost a year, is real, and happens right here in Mississippi. It takes great courage and trust to speak up after being traumatized, but valuable and completely confidential resources are always available.

“In order to prevent human trafficking, communities must rally together and be made aware that it exists,” said Wanda Thomas, executive director of Catholic Charities, Inc. (CCI).

“We want to make certain that children, youth, parents and at-risk adults in our cities are educated. It is important to bring awareness through factual details of what trafficking looks like. Furthermore, we want to provide education as it relates to recovery after rescue.”

CCI’s victim services program furnishes trafficking victims with shelter, food, medical attention, clothing, counseling, legal information and assistance with crime victim compensation. The Healing Hearts program, also a service of CCI, offers specific trauma counseling for both young girls and adult women.

“For our youth, we have Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT),” said Lakeisha Davis, CCI community service program director. “TF-CBT is especially sensitive to the unique problems of youth with post-traumatic stress and mood disorders resulting from sexual abuse, violence or grief. We move at the pace of our client, and no process is rushed or has a time limit. We are here as long as it takes.

“Our women also receive intense trauma therapy. Again, we know and understand that trauma is real and healing hurts. Our last phase is reprogramming, where we rewrite the story with our client, teaching our client to reconnect with others, to develop social skills, and we allow her to mourn the losses from those years spent in survival mode. We believe in validation, acceptance and, most of all, healing.”

Johanna Beeland, deputy director of engagement and human trafficking manager for the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, will speak at the Journey of Hope luncheon about helping trafficking victims recover with hope and dignity.

“We have an interactive services map and potential access to the crime victims’ compensation fund,” Beeland said. “We encourage all victims, or anyone who may know of someone being trafficked, to report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“Tips can be reported anonymously, 24/7, and are directed to local authorities on the ground, like our office, in real time, to ensure quick and timely responses to possible victims. I’ll also be sharing information on the signs that you or someone you know is being trafficked, and how to report trafficking.”

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text the word INFO to 233733. For more information on victim assistance at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, visit www.AttorneyGeneralLynnFitch.com. Visit Catholic Charities Inc. at catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Race participants run for Charities foster care program

RIDGELAND – Catholic Charities held their fourth annual “Run Foster Run” fundraiser event on Thursday, May 6, at The Township at Colony Park. All proceeds from the event, which honors National Foster Care Month in May, went to benefit Catholic Charities’ foster care programs such as adoption, therapeutic foster care for children with emotional disorders and the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program. To learn more visit www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

Featured photos

Preparing Chrism oils …

JACKSON – On March 30, volunteers prepared Holy Oils for priests to take back to their home parishes, in the Community Center at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The oils were blessed by Bishop Joseph Kopacz the day before. This year, no Chrism Mass was held due to holding a Funeral Mass for Father Brian Kaskie. Pictured in front are chancery employees, Vickie Carollo and Fabvienen Taylor. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Catholic Charities

JACKSON – (Left to right) Pam Hart, Community Relations Manager; Melanie Morgan, Marketing Director; Wanda Thomas, Executive Director; and Michael Crandall, Bank President Canton branch. Thank you to Trustmark National Bank for their generous donation through the Business Children’s Promise Tax Credit. For more information on the Individual Children’s Promise Tax Credit, call 601-326-3714. (Photo by Michael Thomas)

Stations of Cross

PEARL – St. Jude parish meet April 2 for walking the Stations of the Cross. (Photo by Tereza Ma)
JACKSON – St. Richard second graders reenact the Stations of the Cross. (Photo by Chelsea Hamilton)
CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth students perform the Stations of the Cross. Pictured left to right: Isabel Walker (Veronica), William Walker (Jesus), Luke Agostinelli (Simon of Cyrene) and Sam Stonestreet (Roman soldier). (Photo by Derrick Faucheux)

St. Joseph Altar

NATCHEZ – At Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary parish displayed their St. Joseph Altar for his feast day on March 19. (Photo by Maureen Irby)

Catholic Charities Jackson: National adoption awareness month over, but mission continues

By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – During the month of November institutions educate the public about the importance of adopting children of any age to offer them a better future. Catholic Charities of Jackson was not an exception; with much experience in programs to foster and adopt children, they took this month to highlight the awareness of their mission that continues for the rest of the year.
For Catholic Charities of Jackson every child “has a right to a lasting, loving home.” Their efforts are directed toward finding a family for any child in need, regardless of the special circumstances that may be involved.
The primary goal of the adoption program is to place each child in the best possible home for a permanent adoption. All persons who are part of the adoption triad are valued components, but the most important person is the child in need of a home. “In selecting homes we seek to find those which can most adequately meet the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of each child for whom we are responsible,” says Amy Turner, Therapeutic Foster Care and Adoption Director at Catholic Charities Jackson.
The Adoption program of Catholic Charities of Jackson is structured, for easy access to any person who wants to be involved, in four components: maternity services, infant foster care, adoption and post adoption services.
The maternity services provide support to anyone distressed by an unplanned pregnancy, including counseling, coordination of medical services and adoption counseling assistance. Catholic Charities may provide infant foster care for pending their placement for adoption or return to a birth parent.

JACKSON – Development director, Michael Thomas of Catholic Charities helps pick up a donation of 188 pieces of luggage from the Rehabilitation Associates of Mississippi and Life of Mississippi for the foster care program on Thursday, Dec. 3. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of Jackson)

The adoption program offers counseling services on alternatives to abortion and has several types of adoption services available, including open adoption, semi-open adoption or confidential adoption. While open adoption offers the ability to choose and meet the adopting family and the option to see the child in the future, semi-open uses ongoing contact between the parties through the agency. Confidential adoption offers the ability to choose the adopting family but has to option of having no contact after the child’s placement with a family.
The post-adoption services at Catholic Charities works with adoptees who desire background information and possible contact with birthparents.
For more information on adoption or foster care at Catholic Charities Jackson, visit www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org or contact director Amy Turner at (601) 960-8649.

Purple Dress Run draws attention to domestic violence awareness

The best dressed group at the event: Trip Davis made it third in the men category through the finish line, his partner Jessica Diamond placed first in the women category and their dogs Mark and Rowdy were a huge hit at the event.
The race winner was Rob Oates (on right), second place went to Georgi Manolov of Bulgaria, his second year in Mississippi. This year the event was limited to 100 registrants, with many others participating at home for the virtual event.
Campbell Hardy and Cece Stansell were the youngest runners at the Purple Dress Run and showed great enthusiasm for all of the participants.

Catholic Charities works to shelter victims and their pets from violence

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – ‘Anna’ was able to focus on her goals and getting her life back together free of violence, knowing that her kitten was safe and receiving the best of care. This is one of the success stories of Catholic Charities of Jackson’s Shelter for Battered Families, now known as the Jackson Victim Services program since they added their “Safe Haven for Pets” program to their shelter program in July 2020.
Jackson Victim Services offered services to 161 women and children over the past year and began the discussing a partnership with Mississippi State University in May 2020 to care for pets of those fleeing domestic violence situations. Sarah Bradley, program director of the Jackson Division of Victim Services for Catholic Charities says that many victims who are pet owners do not come into shelters due to not having suitable living arrangements for their pets.

JACKSON – Catholic Charities Jackson Victims Services began offering the “Safe Haven for Pets” program as a partnership with Mississippi State University in July 2020. The program offers a safe place for pets of those fleeing domestic violence situations. (Photo courtesy of BigStock)

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as many as 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape abusive situations because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets. And, as many as 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their batterer had threatened, injured or killed family pets.
As for the new “Safe Haven for Pets” program at Catholic Charities, it joins a small percentage of domestic violence shelter programs across the country that offer service for pets. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only 12% of domestic violence programs across the country can provide shelter for pets.
Pets in the “Safe Haven for Pets” program partnership with Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine can stay from days to months, until their owners are able to return for them. The program also provides vaccines, flea and tick control, spay or neuter surgeries, heartworm and parasite testing and treatment, and any other medically necessary treatment for the animals.
Bradley says that ‘Anna,’ who came to the shelter in July with her kitten was pleased with the services provided to and for her kitten. “She stated she was able to focus on her goals and getting her life back together free of violence, knowing that her kitten was safe and receiving the best of care,” said Bradley.
“Anna received updates and pictures of her kitten which meant a lot to her. She reported that her kitten was therapy for her on some of her darkest days. Because of the new service, Anna made the decision to come into the shelter for service.”
For now, when a victim needs assistance with their pet, the Catholic Charities case manager contacts a local animal shelter. Then the pet is transported to the animal shelter by the case manager for the safety of the pet. Throughout the program, the shelter resident then receives weekly updates and pictures of their pet.
Bradley says, “because our program offers emotional and supportive assistance, we are happy to have the “Safe Haven for Pets” program in place for consumers who need it.”
If you need assistance escaping abuse, please call Catholic Charities at (601) 366-0222 or 1-800-273-9012.

Purple Dress Run supports domestic violence shelter and programs

JACKSON – About 200 runners and walkers grabbed their running shoes and purple dresses for Catholic Charities 8th annual Purple Dress Run at the District at Eastover in Northeast Jackson on Thursday, Oct. 17 in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Racers ran and walked through the Eastover neighborhood to raise awarness about domestic violence and to raise money for Catholic Charities newly opened domestic violence shelter.