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Different Kind of Support for Domestic Violence Victims

June 29, 2014

Marla_mogulAfter leaving a successful corporate career to start my own business, losing my husband to lymphoma, and raising our children on my own, I was looking for a place to put my energy and a way to connect with my Chicago community. After trying a number of things, I realized what I really wanted to do was to help other people.

Fortunately, I had a long-time friend, Alan Weintraub, who was a social worker and had helped develop a number of programs for populations in need. In one of our conversations, Alan shared with me the difficulties endured by victims of domestic violence. Listening to him, I knew what I needed to do next.

After researching the needs of domestic violence victims and the services currently available to them in Chicago, I learned that many agencies provide crisis intervention, counseling, and shelter services — intense, serious, and challenging work — and that many also do great work as advocates on behalf of domestic violence victims. But as far as I could tell, the one thing many of these women — and an overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims are women — didn’t have was an opportunity, however brief, to escape from the daily struggle to rebuild their lives. I decided I wanted to do something about that. And so, in 2012 Alan and I co-founded A Night Out, a nonprofit that treats women in domestic violence shelters to an evening at a concert, comedy show, or some other outing.

Each Night Out is designed to offer hope and a much-needed respite from the daily fear, strife, and hardship that victims of domestic violence typically experience. The women who agree to join us often do so with some hesitation, feeling they don’t deserve to be pampered. But they almost always come away with a sense of empowerment, gratitude, and a strong desire to push forward to overcome their pasts and create a better future for themselves.

One Night Out in particular stands out for me: the evening in 2013 we took a group of women to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual Corporate Night, featuring singer-songwriter Janelle Monae (filling in for an ailing Aretha Franklin). The concert, a delightful mix of classical, R&B, and pop, was a unique experience (to say the least!), and the members of our group soon were out of their seats dancing and singing. On the way back to the shelter, I could feel their excitement. One of the women with us had a passion for classical music but had never had an opportunity to see a performance in a concert hall — she had never even dared dream of such an opportunity — and her look of happiness, accomplishment, and disbelief was simply overwhelming. We had given her an experience that might not seem out of the ordinary to many of us, but it had changed her life. Another woman kept saying aloud, “Yes, I can!” and “It is possible.” Later, she told me how Monae’s performance had empowered her to believe that she really could rebuild her life. A third woman talked about what an inspiration the singer was and how her stunning musical talent and personality gave this woman hope.

We all have memories like these — of moments that might not strike the person sitting next to us as significant but if experienced at just the right time, by us, have the power to move us to make changes in our lives.

Domestic violence victims rarely have anyone on their side who believes in them. A Night Out shows them that they are special, deserving, and not forgotten. We give them hope and a sense of empowerment. Our organization has made great strides since 2012. Last year, we took more than two hundred women to various events and provided care for their children. And we’re just getting started. Our efforts have created something of a splash in Chicagoland, and we are excited to see the word spread. But the most important thing is that our clients are realizing their own value as individuals and are using that newfound confidence to pursue their own goals and aspirations.

Marla Mogul is co-founder and president of A Night Out, a Chicago-based nonprofit committed to providing adult victims of domestic violence and abuse a brief escape from their everyday world.

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