A public restroom seems an unlikely place for someone in danger to find help. But that’s how many people in our community have found a way to escape the violence in their home.
For the past 15 years, Family Shelter Service has worked with local businesses and organizations to place special posters in restrooms throughout the community. Headlined “Are you Afraid of Someone you Love,” the poster and hotline cards can be found in hospitals and clinics, police stations, libraries, salons, churches and other public gathering spaces.
And it has helped countless people. Gloria had lost nearly all hope when she saw our poster in a restroom at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. Her husband had terrorized her and her three daughters for nearly two decades.
By the time she came to us, Gloria’s lively spirit was cloaked in fear and sadness. She later told us that before she got help, she couldn’t see colors and hear the sights and sounds of nature.
"I can now look around and see my beautiful surroundings – birds and trees – things I couldn't see before. I can actually breathe again,” she said. "Family Shelter saved my life and my kids' lives, too."
Operating 24 hours a day, the Family Shelter Service hotline offers something many victims have never had.
“They finally feel hope and validation for what they’ve been through,” Family Shelter Service Safe Connections Coordinator Betsy Carlson said.
Last year we distributed more than 600 Bathroom Project posters and 27,000 hotline cards.
“It’s a real eye-opener when you see how many of our cards people are actually taking,” Carlson said. “It really shows the need.”
Another former client, Brigette, called our hotline every day for a week after seeing one of our posters.
“Domestic violence felt like a prison sentence or a terminal illness,” she said of her life with a man so violent that he once lit a door on fire to make her open it. “At first I was afraid to even tell the hotline counselor my real name for fear that they might somehow make my situation worse. But they wanted to talk about a safety plan. They said I should pack a bag and leave it in my car and keep my keys in my pockets at all times. That plan turned out to be so helpful.”
Getting help at Family Shelter Service meant that both Gloria and Brigette were able to rebuild and move on from the fear and violence that overshadowed their lives. Today, both women are members of the Family Shelter Service Speakers Bureau, speaking to various organizations about this community issue that affects thousands of people in DuPage County.
If your business or organization would like to display a poster and help connect people to life-saving services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Shelter Service hotline is 630-469-5650.
Maureen McGuire is media relations and advocacy coordinator for Family Shelter Service, a DuPage County-based domestic violence agency.