Women in Transition
Structure of Women in Transition.
The Women in Transition Life Skills and Mentoring (WIT) Group was launched to help clients of HJWT establish themselves after leaving an abusive relationship. WIT provides both the lessons and the tools for a woman to solidify her financial well being, widen her support network, and develop a foundation on which to build a new life for herself and her children. This mentoring group works to dissolve existing barriers to self-sufficiency and stop the abuse cycle in which women become trapped. See the organizational structure of the WIT group.
In 1999, Wynona realized the need for women to overcome fear, guilt, isolation, acceptance of their intolerable situation, and dependence on their abuser through a group atmosphere. When women leave an abusive relationship they feel isolated and alone, and also have difficulty supporting themselves and their children. Thus, they might return, and may become a statistic; leaving behind motherless children. If they have the chance to be in a mentoring group where they can connect with other survivors of domestic violence, they will learn that they are not alone, and learning independent behavior can save lives. Stopping the generational cycle of abuse is an enormous undertaking. With the support and mentoring from within the group, the participants in WIT take the next giant step toward becoming independent and self-supporting.
Participation in the Women In Transition group begins at a point in women's lives where they may have been provided free legal services by HJWT to leave their abuser and protect themselves and their children. This is the point when most services for abused women end, however, it is known that ending services at this juncture of a woman's journey may leave her without resources and skills. There is a healing and growth process that must occur so that women can begin constructing lives where they can sustain themselves and their children. The Women in Transition [remove support] group educates, models, and mentors women on how to turn the coping skills they used to survive abuse into strengths to move forward. It provides life skills knowledge such as balancing a checkbook, preparing a resume, furthering their education, obtaining study skills, gaining further parenting skills, learning to network, finding out how to access services, and assuring that they register to vote.
Because many women do not have access to transportation or childcare, both are offered free as part of the program. Healthy food is prepared and all of the participants gather for a meal together. The women who have completed this program are very enthusiastic about it. One participant wrote that she will always remember: "Looking forward to being warmed by the healing energy of women, all of whom at some point in their lives decided to make a commitment to themselves to move beyond their suffering." Another women stated that: "The stories and the personal sharing-that trust is something we all gave and it was a privilege to be granted access to the most sacred parts of our inner lives. This gave hope, support, and is the beginning of healing."
Several sessions of the WIT mentoring group have occurred. Most recently, a session was facilitated by Brandy Todd, Paralegal and Client Services Coordinator in the Central Vermont office. Held in Barre, Vermont this group concentrated on self-esteem and financial issues. Often WIT groups end by members choosing business clothes they can wear for work which were made possible by the Vermont Bar Association Women's Section Suit Project.
The funding for WIT in the past was received from the by the ALCES Foundation, a private family foundation in New England and is currently funded by the Vermont Women's Fund.