Marie whispers her story with tears in her eyes. “I was walking on eggshells all the time. I never knew what mood he would be in when he walked through the door. I was afraid of what he would do to me and to
Steve, hunched over and unable to make eye contact, shares, “I told my mother, but she didn’t believe me – I was eight years old. I didn’t even have words to describe what my father was doing to me.”
Sitting perfectly still with her anger barely concealed, Staci says, “I thought I knew how to keep myself safe. I did everything they told me to do. I didn’t walk alone after dark. I didn’t leave my drink unattended. I was careful about who I went out with. I never thought someone I knew and cared about would rape me.”
No one is ever truly prepared when a partner becomes abusive, a trusted adult sexually abuses, or a sexual predator rapes. It is a time of confusion, fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and shock. People like Marie, Steve, and Staci struggle with questions of who to tell, what to do, and where to turn for help.
For thirty years, James House Intervention/Prevention Services has been one place to turn in the Greater Tri-Cities Region. The nonprofit agency provides support, advocacy, and education for people impacted by sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking to empower them to become healthy, safe, and self-sufficient.
“Our vision is to deliver hope, peace of mind, and sustainable change to those impacted by interpersonal violence,” explains Chana Amaro, CEO of James House. “We are an inclusive agency, serving men, women, teens, and children living or working in the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg, and in the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry, Sussex, and southern Chesterfield.”
James House offers a wide array of cost-free, trauma-informed, voluntary, and confidential services including: a 24-hour crisis line (804-458-2840), individual counseling, support groups, safe shelter, safety planning, case management, art therapy, food pantry, clothes closet, community referrals, court/hospital accompaniment, and legal advocacy. Services are available in English, Spanish, and Swahili. James House offers specialized services for immigrants, LGBTQ+, people in rural communities, and children.
According to Associate Director Lili Quintana, when children are impacted by violence, they often don’t have the words to talk about their experiences or express their feelings. “Our art therapist for children uses innovative, evidence-based art therapy techniques to help children tell their stories through art,” says Quintana. “With her guidance, paper, colored pencils, chalk, crayons, paints, glue, glitter, and scissors become tools for healing.”
Community awareness and education related to prevention are also important parts of the mission of James House. “We provide fun, interactive presentations and workshops for community groups, and we partner with local schools and child-serving agencies to educate young people about safe and unsafe touch, bullying, and healthy relationships,” says Quintana.
Partnering with local law enforcement agencies across the service area and the Office of the Virginia Attorney General to implement the Lethality Assessment Protocol, James House representatives work tirelessly to ensure successful outcomes for families.
Local mom Jean, who was referred to James House by a police officer, says she never imagined herself feeling safe in a shelter, but with support from James House, she has found hope. “I never thought I’d end up living in a shelter, but when my husband’s abuse spilled over to my son, I knew it was time to call the police,” says Jean. “Going into a shelter was scary, but now, for the first time in a long time,
I feel safe. I have a long road ahead, but with support from James House, I know my son and I can heal and move on.”
Hogs for the House
Saturday, September 14
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Surrounded by shiny new Harley-Davidson motorcycles, enjoy a barbecue cook-off competition, live music, delicious food and beverages, and treats for purchase. Rain date is September 28. ($)
To learn more about services, upcoming events, and how you can support the work of James House, visit thejameshouse.org.
Photo: John Randolph Medical Center