Harbor House offers support for domestic violence survivors

November 2, 2017 Features

The Harbor House of Central Florida is a transformative resource for survivors of domestic abuse. It also offers volunteer opportunities for Rollins students.

In wake of Oct. being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is vital to the safety and comfort of students and faculty on campus to be well-informed about local resources in the unfortunate case in which they feel the need to flee a stalking, physically abusive, or emotionally abusive partner.

Harbor House of Central Florida is a place for victims of abuse—including stalking, physical violence, or threats of violence or death—to cross a bridge between recovery from traumatic experiences to beginning a new chapter free from their abuser.

Though the location of this domestic violence safe haven is undisclosed for safety purposes, its five acres of land provide survivors with everything they need to feel grounded and protected. Survivors may be staying for an emergency state of 12 weeks or less or for a transitional period of four months to one year.

The Harbor House does not have the stereotypical look or feel of an average shelter. It offers resort-inspired living arrangements with accommodations such as daycare and schooling for children up to age 17. The objective is to allow survivors to continue at their jobs and maintain a highly valued sense of normalcy.

Available resources for children and teenagers include a Harry Potter themed ‘hang out’ room donated by Universal Studios. It is a place where kids can converse, relax, play Wii video games, and watch movies on the DVD player. The decor of rooms in the Harbor House, including the ‘hang out’ space, has a profound impact on the quality of life among survivors utilizing its facilities. They make them feel at home in a new environment. Seeing as it is crucial for children of survivors to continue developing and experiencing childhood in all its stages, the resources provided outside of the classrooms are frequently utilized and enjoyed by families.

The playground donated by Disney is home to Mickey Mouse hopscotch and a variety of autism and post-trauma-friendly playground pieces that make children feel like they can have fun without being endangered.

One way in which escaping an abusive household situation impacts children of all ages is the trauma they undergo. It is common for children staying at the Harbor House to revert to wetting their bed as a result of adjusting to life in a new and uncomfortable setting, as well as night terrors and post-traumatic stress triggers. For this reason, diapers sizes five and six are constantly in high demand at the Harbor House and donations of these specific sizes are always needed and appreciated.

Other donation items that are used by residents year-round are school supplies. They are not an item of priority when packing and preparing to leave an abusive partner. Therefore, when it is time for children of survivors to continue attending school, that ever-valuable sense of normalcy is once again retained by providing them with books and materials.

There is an incredible amount of opportunity for Rollins students to volunteer at the Harbor House. One opportunity is working in the Harbor House pet kennel. Help is needed whether it be socializing with the animals or feeding and caring for them. Despite this being just one of 40 domestic violence shelters in the state of Florida, it is the only facility with a pet kennel. Survivors feel emotionally attached to pets and it is important in emergency situations like these to make sure everyone who is important and dear to the victim is freed from the abusive household. Therefore, a shelter for cats, dogs, and gerbils is provided on the Harbor House campus.

For all who are strongly passionate and interested in reaching out and doing work in the area of domestic violence and abuse, there is a year-round position as a Department Intern. This position is a great way to get involved with an organization that helps thousands. It includes performing administrative tasks and awareness event planning at the Harbor House. Questions, concerns, resumes, and cover letters should be sent to the Director of Development, Tekoa Pouerie. Her email is tpouerie@harborhousefl.com.

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