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Ahern: Beverly community group aids victims of domestic violence

Updated: September 26, 2013 6:16AM



Statistically, one in three women suffers abuse in their intimate relationship, and that abuse can be physical, emotional, financial or sexual, according to Rita Ryan, a certified domestic violence professional.

“Beverly is no different,” Ryan said, referencing statistics from Chicago’s Beverly community.

And Ryan should know because for 25 years she has worked to help women in abusive situations, through an organization known as A New Direction, which is in Beverly. Its exact location must remain a secret for the protection of the women whom Ryan helps.

What can be told is that clients meet with Ryan at her office and learn how the organization can help them — either through attorney referrals, emotional support as they begin the break from their abuser or some other effort.

Whatever it takes, Ryan is willing to do. Instead of being depressed or overwhelmed by such a difficult job, she is inspired.

“Work is not depressing because I am allowed to travel the journey to break the cycle of violence with my clients, who overcome unbelievable obstacles to become free,” she said. “Education on the issue, support, counseling and legal advocacy for victims to utilize the court systems with orders of protection, divorce, child support and visitation all help women empower themselves to move from victim to survivor.

“And, yes, I am inspired by my clients whose trust in me is a gift.”

Ryan said issues of abuse in a home affect not only the person being abused, but the children who have to see their parents fight. Often, women find the strength to leave because abuse puts their children at risk, she said.

“The single most motivating factor for a woman becoming a survivor — what encourages them to reach out for help for domestic violence to an agency like A New Direction — is when they  understand the effects on children,” Ryan said. “When clients understand their children are being traumatized by witnessing the abuse in the home, they find the strength to do it for their children.”

The journey often starts with Ryan. Women get in touch with her through word of mouth or through her email address (ritaryan500@gmail.com).

Ryan will put the client in touch with legal services, will provide information on safe places and will do nearly anything that an abused woman needs or wants — and all of this at no charge to the client.

Ryan is quick to point out, though, that while the client is not charged, there are still costs associated with the running of A New Direction, and she is grateful to the community for its financial support.

Jessica McCarihan is the president of its board of directors. She and a few friends decided to form A New Direction as a grass-roots effort after McCarihan was inspired by a friend who was an abuse victim.

“We don’t turn anyone away, and we appreciate awareness of this,” McCarihan said. “We also have a children’s therapist available, too. For the future, I would like to see us get government funding and more community support so that we can increase the hours and service of what we do. People just don’t know how big the need is.”

One of the ways A New Direction gets financial assistance is through its annual fundraiser, which will be held Oct. 5 at Beverly Country Club, 8700 Western Ave., Chicago. Food, drink and a band will be offered for a $65 donation in advance or a $75 donation for tickets purchased at the door.

“Like most not-for-profits, funding is a constant challenge,” Ryan said. “We choose to run a domestic violence agency in the Beverly/Morgan Park community that offers services to abuse victims and not charge. Given our low overhead, almost all of the dollar amount donated goes to direct service to victims.

“The journey to break the (domestic violence) cycle can be long and difficult, and clients may be in service with me for a long time before we say goodbye,” she said. “When they leave, I know they have what they need to become survivors.”

For more information about A New Direction, visit www.anewdirectionbmp.org or call (773) 253-7226.



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