Internship profile: Harbor House

Kaitlyn Esula

When asked what actions constitute abuse, most people think about punching, hitting and strangling. What about name calling, isolation and financial control? These actions are all also considered forms of abuse. More times than not, a perpetrator will emotionally or verbally abuse someone before resorting to physical abuse.
Perpetrators strive to control someone else’s life. They do not hit, isolate partners from friends and family, or threaten because they are drunk, upset with work, or worried about financial issues; they seek to gain and hold on to control over their partners. Victims often feel that calling the police will make their partners more furious and will cause the abuse to escalate.
So, where are abused women supposed to go when they have had enough of living in an abusive relationship? Many are too scared to tell family, and for others, family members and friends are not around to support them.
Luckily, a team of dedicated advocates, volunteers and interns work at Harbor House in Appleton, Wis. to support and help these lonely women in the community. Harbor House is a shelter for abused women and children.
The Harbor House program provides support groups and services for clients from the outside, and it strives to educate the community about domestic violence and ways to prevent it.
Harbor House helps women find jobs, apartments and safety plans, so women can live independently and have a safe home for themselves and their children. One can call Harbor House at any time, and someone is always there waiting to answer the phone and provide the needed resources to escape an abusive relationship. This description just touches on the programs Harbor House offers.
In addition, Harbor House staff work with the police to provide contact for domestic abuse victims, attend court hearings as support for victims, and do much more.
During fall term 2009, I interned at Harbor House, and worked with the legal advocate Wendy Gehl. Last school year, I found out about Harbor House from Kristi Hill, in the Career Center here at LU.
For me, Harbor House was the perfect match for an internship, because I want to go to law school and be a lawyer for domestic and child abuse cases. Not only did I gain experience in handling some legal issues dealing with restraining orders, custody issues, and divorce, but I learned effective ways to provide support for woman and children experiencing abuse.
More importantly, I realized that while talking and hearing about abuse is tough, it is more empowering to know that I helped make a difference in someone’s life. Before my internship, I was not sure if I was going to be able to handle working with abuse and if I was going to have to change my future goals.
This experience showed me that I most definitely can do it. I am ecstatic that I was able to find this out before going to law school and deciding where to take my life after Lawrence.
Anyone looking into going into counseling, practicing law or just wanting to provide support to others would benefit from volunteering
or interning at Harbor
House. Words cannot describe
how much I learned while I was
at Harbor House, and the knowledge
I gained from this experience
will help me later in life.
As tough as it was to listen to
woman tell their stories, at the
end of the term I realized how
rewarding it felt to be able to
help women become independent
and safe.
Staff members at Harbor
House, as well as myself, realize
that one person cannot change
the world or stop abuse altogether.
Working together as a team
to teach prevention, make safety
plans and provide support can
really make a difference.
It is likely someone you know
is experiencing, has experienced,
or will experience abuse. Just
because you do not see marks on
someone’s arms or a black eye
does not mean that you know
everything that goes on behind
closed doors.