Violence is everywhere. It is in the media and on the playground and in our homes. Perhaps it is in your home. We stretch ourselves to imagine the pain, the fear, the humiliation. Violence is a cycle of abuse – a circle is difficult to break.
So we make a circle of women.
On Dec. 4, the YWCA Northeast Indiana hosts a Circle of Women Luncheon for every woman who wants to help women, men and children who have been hurt. For 18 years, Circle of Women has raised funds, over $2 million, that support YWCA domestic violence services and programs, enabling them to continue to “eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.” “Luncheon” is not an appropriate word for this event, if I am being honest. Luncheons have pastel colored plates and boring small talk. Circle of Women is anything but small, and this year YWCA brings a big discussion to the table.
Theresa Flores and the Circle discuss the violence she has endured. Where speakers in the past have been victims of domestic and teen dating violence, Flores was a victim of human trafficking in Detroit. She is a courageous voice speaking up for the trafficked children and women on our own soil. Flores does not fit the mental image of a trafficked child with dark skin, smuggled into the country. Instead, she comes from a wealthy, middle-class family and shocks audiences with her natural blonde hair and blue eyes.
Titled “Saving Our Own,” the Circle of Women Luncheon “shines a light on the dangerous world of human trafficking.” Flores presents facts on trafficking in the United States, and she offers advice to parents and professionals for preventing this injustice in Northeast Indiana. After all, this area is vulnerable to run-off from the nearby cities of Chicago and Detroit.
Seven hundred and fifty guests were expected to attend, and the proceeds go solely towards YWCA’s services and programs. There is great need for those funds; needs that have been met for the 120 years that YWCA in Northeast Indiana has been open.
The first YWCA for women in the workforce opened in 1894 and evolved into safe housing for single women. That blossomed into a domestic violence shelter, and programs were built for the entire family. This organization takes in victims, keeps them safe and helps them rebuild their lives from scratch. There are education programs for the community to prevent violence, including a school dating violence program, and support groups in jails and homeless shelters. In 2013 alone, YWCA Northeast Indiana provided programs/services to over 10,000 individuals and took more than 3,600 calls on the 24-hour crisis phones.
The award for biggest impact goes to the YWCA Crisis Shelter. It is the only domestic violence shelter in Northeast Indiana serving Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley counties. Without the Crisis Shelter, many women and children would remain in dangerous households. It is a privilege to support such a successful escape for those who need it most.
Another supporter of Circle of Women is artist Terry Ratliff. Ratliff is a Fort Wayne local who specializes in bold use of color and unique layering, recently adding fashion to his collection of canvases. His art is displayed at Circle of Women and more of his work can be found at terryratliff.com.
Anyone interested in supporting YWCA should contact YWCA Northeast Indiana’s administrative coordinator, Sue Hiatt, at (260) 424-4908 ext. 254 or SHiatt@ywcaerew.org. For more information, visit www.ywcaerew.org/CircleofWomen.