“I could go into a grocery store and ask 20 random people if they know about Friends of the family and what we do,” Lori Nelson, Director of Community Engagement at Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) said. “Maybe five of those 20, at the most, would say yes.” That is an extremely serious statement because not knowing who Friends of the Family is, what they do, where they are, and how to contact them could, literally, be the difference between life and death. Described as a compassionate and comprehensive service, DCFOF was founded in 1980. Its mission is to function as a path to help and to support those affected by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. DCFOF applies a strong focus on partnering with the community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention. “We’re the only emergency shelter in Denton County,” Nelson continued. “We have two facilities with undisclosed locations, with 42 available beds. There are situations and times when a person must get out immediately to avoid harm. “We have 70 employees, including attorneys, counselors, medical personnel, psychologists, child therapists, and more. When the women who have suffered through any form of domestic violence come to us for help, we focus on independence and sustainability. Intimidation, power, and control are almost always at the root of violence toward women. Frequently, they are isolated from family and friends, with no access to the documents that serve to define them – birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security number, a bank account. One of the first things we do is return their identity by getting those documents for them.” DCFOF is a non-profit operating on state and federal grants, fund raisers, and its Upscale Resale shop.
The organization has specific ways to raise money for specific needs. “The average stay in the shelter for our ladies is two months and it’s usually their first experience with communal living. We also provide them with transitional housing while working with the community to find employment. We’re covering their total living expenses during this time, which means all the money they make from their jobs goes to them. “We continue their access to counselors, so they have continued motivation. Around 60 percent of the women bring their children with them, and we’re set up to fully accommodate them.” Unfortunately, Denton County ranks seventh in the state for domestic violence, according to the Texas Counsel of Family Violence. “We added texting to our crisis hot line during COVID. Since a woman was quarantined with her abuser, it was safer for her to text. The entire COVID experience was very interesting. One of the things we found happening was that victims waited until the level of abuse was quite high before reaching out to anyone, much higher than before COVID.” One of the most intriguing and proven facts about domestic violence is that its potential to occur rises by 500 times in homes where a firearm is present. This is beyond tragic, but true. Two of the women killed last year were shot with their own guns. “One was in Lewisville,” Nelson said. “Her former partner wouldn’t leave her alone. One night, she saw him through her apartment window. She got the gun she’d been encouraged to buy through well-meaning friends. She walked out of her apartment with the gun in one hand and her cell phone in the other, talking with the police. He grabbed her, took the gun away, shot and killed her, and then shot and killed himself.
Their 11-year-old son watched.” DCFOF is an entire village, a ready-made extended family fully prepared to assist in putting lives back together. Those 70 employees mentioned earlier are professionals, trained to cover all the physical, emotional, legal, and safety bases. The Outreach office is located at 4845 I-35 E/Suite 200 in Corinth. No appointment is needed. If you need help, just walk in and help is there for the taking. It could be the difference between life and death.
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