SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A few years ago, Amber was walking along Cherry Street, where Harmony House used to be located when she first learned there was a way out.
“I was walking and I saw this lady outside. She’s like ‘this is a woman’s shelter for domestic abuse and battered women’. So, when things started occurring in my life, I couldn’t remember the name at first, so I just googled the address – shelter on Cherry street, and the first thing that popped up was Harmony House.”
But the few times she tried to leave, she always came back. It wasn’t until last year that Amber made a life-changing decision.
“It was like one of those ‘Aha!’ moments,” she said.
An unrelated incident brought law enforcement out to her neighborhood and a sheriff’s deputy noticed some red flags.
“He knew that I was carrying myself differently,” Amber said. “Anytime that [he] was standing outside with me, I would look down to the ground or I would not make eye contact with anyone. So, he waited until he left for work, and he came back and he knocked on the door.”
When that deputy reached out Amber finally left for good and this time she had a plan. She got a ride and made it to Harmony House. But for women who don’t have the means to drive up there or aren’t sure of how or what to do, you can start with a phone call.
417-864-SAFE will connect you to The Victim Center or Harmony House.
“It’s confidential,” said Shelly Drymond.. of The Victim Center. “Our victims advocates are well trained, so it’s a very safe and helpful process. So, you do not need to be worried to call in.”
Shelter Director Sunni Nutt says the call could last 5 to 10 minutes.
“Anytime someone calls our Hotline it is a real live person,” she said. “A lot of times they will ask if they’re safe to be talking on the phone then or if someone could be listening to their phone call, especially if you can hear a commotion or something in the background.”
She says an advocate will ask a few questions to determine if the shelter is the best solution.
“We will ask them about their partner, what kind of abuse they are experiencing, how often it happens,” Nutt said.
If an individual doesn’t necessarily need emergency shelter then they can bo connected to other services, for example, The Victim Center which offers counseling and legal advocacy
“We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Drymond. “And if you are not ready to leave, but still need services, then we can set you up with individual counseling here at The Victim Center.”
Greene County will soon have another resource for survivors. The Family Justice Center will be located on the second floor of the Greene County Courthouse. It’s still in its planning stages but the county hopes it will be up and running by this summer. Advocates hope having resources under one roof will help close the gap between victims and help available to them.
“Not really fully knowing the resources and how to access them and fear, those are I think the top two reasons individuals do not reach out,”
Amber says from experience before you decide to leave have a plan.
“Plan, plot be smart about it. And when you do, make your plan, work it around him, get away from him” she said. “Wait until he’s gone to work, wait until he’s gone to the grocery store.”
To help people prepare, both The Victim Center and Harmony House can help create an individualized safety plan.
“If they can pack a bag and hide it in the trunk of their car maybe,” said Nutt. “Or if they can get legal documents together, such as their ID, birth certificates, and put something together to get ready to leave.”
After spending a few months at Harmony House, Amber says she is now healed and continues to grow. She encourages others in similar situations to reach out.
“What can I do for me today to change this moment? Can I get away from this situation? Yes, you can. Take the time, love yourself and get away.”