Shine for a Cause: CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence


Choices for Victims of Domestic Violence

The Who

The mission of CHOICES is to interrupt the cycle of domestic violence in this community and advocate for social change. CHOICES defines domestic violence as physical assault, psychological, emotional, economic and/or sexual abuse between intimate partners. This cuts across all geographic, religious, socio-economic, racial, sex and age barriers. Domestic violence increases in frequency and severity within a relationship yet is not a relationship issue. Domestic violence is learned, criminal, generational, cyclical, and is correlated with substance abuse.

CHOICES believes no family member deserves to be abused by an intimate partner, no person has the right to abuse their intimate partner, and everyone has a right to a violence-free household. They believe intervention can help. They believe primary responsibility for the acts and behaviors of individuals belongs to those individuals, and secondary responsibility belongs to society.

The Story

CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence is the only intimate partner violence safe haven in Franklin County offering 51 beds, a 24-hour crisis and information hotline, counseling services and legal and community advocates for those impacted by domestic violence. The average monthly shelter census consistently exceeds our number of beds.  Recently, we’ve housed more than 90 people, half of them children.  When demand necessitates, room is made by placing cots in common rooms and offices.  In the fiscal year 2016, CHOICES sheltered a total of 701 victims of intimate partner violence and their children.

CHOICES’ crisis line receives more than 4,300 calls each year from victims living in fear from the threat of domestic violence. This resource is the only one of its kind in central Ohio and is available to anyone in need of domestic violence information or assistance. Hotline staff are trained to listen, ask questions, discuss alternatives, and ultimately refer callers to specific programs and services based on their individual needs.

CHOICES also provides outreach services through legal advocacy and programs for special populations. Legal advocates offer support, gather information, and assist with filing criminal charges and obtaining protection orders to help victims navigate the criminal justice system.

In addition, CHOICES offers community-based problem-solving counseling, support, resources, and referrals to the victims and survivors of domestic violence. Services are available 24-hours a day and provided by licensed social workers. Treatment goals are developed cooperatively and focus on increasing self-esteem, empowerment, and decision-making skills. Personal, physical, and emotional safety plans are explored and defined.

Education is the first step in the prevention of domestic violence. CHOICES strives to educate the community-at-large, mental health and social service staff, legal and law enforcement communities, healthcare workers, and other appropriate groups about intimate partner violence and available services.

To read their story in greater detail click “here”.

A Few Quick Facts

  • It is estimated 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime
  • Approximately 3 women each day are killed by their husband or boyfriend
  • Every 9 seconds a woman is abused by their husband or boyfriend
  • The CHOICES crisis line handles almost 4,300 calls each year
  • CHOICES has assisted in developing legislature such as the Ohio Domestic Violence Law and public funding mechanism for domestic violence services
Sue Villilo, Executive Director of CHOICES

Photographed: Sue Villilo, Executive Director of CHOICES

And Now…

This week we’re featuring a special guest! We were fortunate enough to speak with Sue Villilo of CHOICES, on her role as Executive Director.

A&L: What’s the best part about your job?

SV: The best part of my job is interacting with the children staying in the shelter.  They are so resilient!  They are the children of victims of intimate partner abuse. The situations they have come from are frightening and often confusing for them.  But they are filled with joy and simply want to act like kids.

A&L: How did you first get involved with CHOICES?

SV: CHOICES became a member of the Lutheran Social Services Network of Hope in March 2014.  Prior to the official merger, LSS provided management services.  I was fortunate to be entrusted with the Interim Executive Director position during that time.  The work that CHOICES does is literally lifesaving and life altering for the people we serve.  After the merge, I was able to remain in the position. 

A&L: What is a memory you’ll never forget since working at you organization?

SV: Probably one of the most impactful experiences of my life was taking a hotline call from a woman who said “If I leave tonight, I can escape with all of my children.”  I was new to CHOICES at the time and had not yet realized the full weight of “escape” or the fear one may have to leave their children behind.

A&L: What are you most proud of that CHOICES has accomplished?

SV: So many things!  But at the heart of everything we do, every interaction is a fundamental belief in the value and worth of each person.  We understand that people who are survivors of domestic violence are traumatized and respond consistently from a place of understanding.

A&L: What helps you “shine” through hard days?

SV: Without a doubt the people around me.  Staff at CHOICES are so committed to the work they do, it is inspirational. 

A&L: Can you tell any interesting facts about the organization that we maybe otherwise wouldn’t know?

SV: It always amazes me that in shelter, the most common age of a resident is 1 year old.  We have more 1 year olds living in shelter annually than any other age.

A&L: If you had one piece of advice to empower women, what would it be?

SV: It is ok to be afraid of doing what you need to do, do it anyway.

A&L: What would you say to someone who’s looking to get involved?

SV: Please do!  Our shelter is very old and woefully inadequate for our residents’ needs. We are in the middle of a really important Community Campaign to raise money to build a new shelter. We’d love the community’s support in making this happen so that we can serve even more victims and their children. For more information, check out CHOICES website.

How to Donate

As you may know, at Argo & Lehne we’re celebrating women the whole month of March. If you’re feeling social, on Tuesday, March 21st from 5-8pm we’re throwing a party for CHOICES. If you bring an accepted donation, you will receive 15% off all new in-stock jewelry and 10% off in-stock giftware. What’s more, CHOICES receives 10% from all in-stock purchases to their cause!

Busy that day? Purchase any Sharon Wei piece anytime during the week of March 20-25 and 10% of the purchase goes back to CHOICES.

Visit our Shine for a Cause event page for full details!

CHOICES kindly asks that paperback books are given as a donation for the victims and their children of the shelter, as well as the non-shelter clients.

The titles listed below are often in shortage at the lending library; however all paperback books are welcome:

  • Any of the Harry Potter books
  • Any superhero comic books
  • “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft
  • “When Dad Hurts Mom – Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse” by Lundy Bancroft
  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by Lundy Bancroft

How to Volunteer

Currently, all volunteer opportunities take place off-site of the CHOICES shelter. This is due to the trauma that the residents have experienced, in addition to safety concerns and space constraints. Therefore, the shelter is not offering opportunities in direct contact with victims or children. The following opportunities are available:

LSS Food Pantries – stock shelves, fill client orders, check clients in

Faith Mission – Serve meals, assist clients in job search, assist manager in the Health Clinic, sort and store donation

The Good Shepherd – letter writer, reader, visitor, holiday events, activity helper, musical performers

The volunteer interest form for the above can be found “here”.

As the demand for sheltering victims of domestic violence increases, CHOICES’ resources have unfortunately been stretched thin. They’ve launched a campaign to build a new shelter you can check out “here”.Choices for Victims of Domestic Violence