On July 1st, after 32 years as a United Way Agency, RS Eden will stop having that designation. That's more a reflection of the economy, and people having less disposable income, than it is of the service we provided. At least that’s what our United Way representatives told us. The United Way funded a very small, but very important, part of our overall services; a family counseling component. They told us that they had $16 million in requests, for $4 million dollars in grants. They told us we were a good program and that we always met or exceeded our goals. Then they told us that our focus wasn’t narrow enough; that we focused on the entire family unit, and this round, they only funded programs that primarily focused on domestic violence. They told us that we fell into the medium category, and they only funded programs that fell into the high category. I will never disparage or discount shelters, anger management services or any other program that provides a safe, immediate response to family violence. But I do think our programs suffered because we focus too much on stopping the cycle and not enough on what some see as the immediate problem.
Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship. Potential suitors do not come with a Surgeon General’s warning that they may be hazardous to your health. And no one should put up with any level of emotional or physical abuse.
But there are some people who, when they remove themselves from an unhealthy relationship, immediately go out and find themselves another one just like it. Anyone living with an addict or alcoholic knows what I mean.
Most people were shocked when, in the movie, “Precious”, the character played by Monique emotionally and physically beat her daughter; who had been raped since childhood by her addicted father; for “taking her man away”. What they haven't experienced is people who will put up with anything, because in their minds, it’s better than nothing. People need to do the work to feel good enough about themselves to demand what any human being deserves; healthy, respectful relationships.
Our clients; the poor, the disenfranchised, the anti-social; deal with frustration compulsively. They seek power, because they feel powerless. With drugs and alcohol, they have the power to change who they are, or how they feel; at least in the short term. With their criminal behaviors, they seek to gain power, acceptance and recognition in a world where those behaviors are valued, because they are too insecure or beat down to compete in the real world. And in social or family relationships, they sometimes rely on their physical traits to broker power, be it through sex or violence. For those folks, simply removing them from a relationship, or a situation where they are hurt, or hurt someone, only means they will move on to someone else. They have to find their inner power, which has little or nothing to do with being physical, but everything to do with the strength of knowing who they are, taking responsibility for who they are, changing what they need to, learning to be happy with who they become, and knowing that the only one anyone really has the power to change is themselves.
RS Eden will not stop focusing on families, nor on the changes people need to endure in order to make their families healthy and functional. But we will do it with fewer resources. I’m not mad at the United Way. We’re all going through tough times. The United Way has been a good partner for a long time. I’m disappointed that they will be one no longer.