A TurnAround Inc. staff member speaks with a client. Photo courtesy of TurnAround Inc.

The holiday season can be an especially difficult time for individuals who have previously or are currently being abused.

“Some challenges may be increased interaction with an abusive partner or family members,” said Sara Cassidy, communications coordinator for TurnAround Inc., a domestic violence and rape crisis center based in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. “Survivors who have left an abusive relationship may also be reminded of past trauma around the holidays. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may also experience an increase in triggers and painful memories if the abuser was a family member.”

Although the holidays are often a time of sharing gifts and gathering with loved ones, those same presents and events can be triggers or tools for abuse, said Janice Miller, director of stability services at the House of Ruth Maryland.

“Financial constraints may elevate tensions in abusive relationships and disruptions to schedules for children and families may trigger abuse incidents,” Miller said. “Gifts and decorations may be destroyed or taken; arguments, jealousy, and abuse incidents may occur just before social events to keep survivors off guard and/or prevent them from going.”

Jean Henningsen, TurnAround’s senior director of strategic initiatives, said their clients come from a range of backgrounds, such as those who left their abusive situations and those still in those relationships.

The organization works with survivors based on where they are in their living experiences and how they wish to move forward, Henningsen said.

Both House of Ruth and TurnAround provide year-round assistance to survivors and clients of intimate partner violence and domestic violence. But the holiday season can present unique challenges that the organizations also work to address.

TurnAround has an annual holiday assistance program called Hope for the Holidays. Survivors are asked to create a wishlist for themselves and their family, as well as a “personality snapshot” to help the families and volunteer donors connect on a more personal level.

Although there are enough volunteer donors for this year, people can still help with donations. Donations such as monetary funds, supplemental items, shelf-stable foods, toys, games/art/crafting kits, and spa items such as candles, bath bomb sets, face masks, and others are welcome.

House of Ruth has a similar program called Adopt a Family.

“At the winter holidays, many survivor parents are unable to provide gifts for their children,” Miller said. “Through the Adopt a Family program, donors in the community commit to purchasing items from a wish list provided by participating families. Staff help parents to wrap the gifts and also deliver gifts to families, helping to keep some of the joy in the holidays for children living with violence.”

One of House of Ruth Maryland’s shelter bedrooms. Photo courtesy of House of Ruth Maryland.

Both TurnAround and House of Ruth also accept year-round donations of food, clothing and other items to meet survivors’ needs.

Items that are in demand include clothing of all sizes, genders, ages; non-perishable food items; diapers; baby formula; toiletries; and menstrual products.

The House of Ruth has a resale shop in Owings Mills called Ruth’s Closet. Ruth’s Closet is a women’s clothing boutique and accepts both new and gently used clothing donations that they then sell to the community, with proceeds going to support the House of Ruth Maryland’s operations.

People can view what food, clothing, and other items they should donate on TurnAround’s personal needs wishlist and pantry wishlist, and on House of Ruth Maryland’s website and wishlist.

TurnAround also takes donations to their monetary fund, which helps clients with security deposits when moving, eviction prevention, transportation, and other financial assistance.

Anyone wishing to donate monetary funds can visit TurnAround Inc’s donate page, and/or write a check to the organization’s Baltimore County location at 8503 LaSalle Road, 2nd Floor, Towson, MD 21286.

Items such as clothing and non-perishable food can be donated to TurnAround’s Towson location at _ or the downtown Baltimore City office on the first floor of 1 N. Charles Street.

Donors should call 410-377-8111 or contact info@turnaroundinc.org to arrange a time to drop off their donations.

The organizations also have other programs available throughout the year, including helplines; emergency shelter and other housing assistance; transportation; child care; health care; therapy; professional development; informational resources and referrals; and more.

“We offer safety planning, free trauma therapy (including crisis sessions), group counseling, advocacy, and court accompaniment as well. We provide services to survivors of human trafficking in Howard County as well,” said Henningsen, of TurnAround.

One of TurnAround’s projects is the Purple Poetry Book, a published collection of poetry, short stories, photography, and original artworks made by and for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, Cassidy said.

“What once began as a way to lift up the voices of those who have experienced violence and trauma, has evolved into an entire support system for survivors to share their experiences and inspire those around them,” Cassidy said.

First released in 2009, TurnAround’s Purple Poetry Book is released every October to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“TurnAround celebrates each year’s release with a live event where survivors can read and share their poetry in a safe, inclusive, and fun environment with music, food, and good people,” Cassidy said.

The organization plans to release the book on Amazon.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, you can contact:

  • TurnAround’s 24/7 Helpline: 443-279-0379
  • TurnAround’s text line: 410-498-5956
  • House of Ruth’s 24-hour Hotline: 410-889-7884
  • House of Ruth’s online chat
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Tyneisha Lewis

Tyneisha Lewis's work has appeared in Baltimore Style, Baltimore Child, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere.

One reply on “Maryland organizations assist survivors of abuse during the holidays and year-round”

  1. I Am So Proud Of My Granddaughter Tyneisha. Whatever She Sets Her Mind To Go She Gives It 100% & Seeing Her In This Form Fills My Heart With Joy. I Am So Proud Of You & Keep Up The Good Work.

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