Hopefull Handbags Delivers Hope To Survivors of Domestic Abuse

By Lucia Viti

St. Augustine —

As numerical statistics differ by state, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicates the following:

Domestic violence affects more than 12 million Americans each year.

One in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic violence every year.

Child abuse occurs in up to 70% of families of domestic violence.

Children are six-times more likely to be sexually abused in households of battered women.

Abused women are more likely to abuse their own children.

Intimate partner violence accounts for approximately 25% of ER visits.

Fifty-seven percent of women in jails/prisons report having been domestically abused.

Intimate partner abuse occurs to those between the ages of 18 - 24.

Domestic abuse has no regard for gender, religion, socio-economic status, race, age or sexual orientation.

Cathlene Miner is determined to change the equation for survivors of domestic violence one Hopefull Handbag at a time.

The CEO and Founder of Hopefull Handbags delivers new or gently used handbags, man-bags and back-packs filled with “little things that make you feel better,” to survivors in shelters, social service programs and one-on-one.

Donations - the bags and their stuffing’s - are collected at drop off locations in order to go directly back into the community they were donated from. Among a list of “necessities” (shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, hairbrushes, socks, makeup, etc.), Miner includes hand-written inspirational notes, cards, and a journal, convinced that journaling boosts self-perception, a component she describes as imperative for the sustainability of survivors.

“These handbags open up the conversation to give those in abusive situations the confidence, trust and safety to reach out for help,” she said. “We remind survivors that life is limitless. There is opportunity for hope.”

Miner explained that certain drop off locations are also considered safe places, that is, those in need of assistance can contact Hopefull Handbags.

“Our safe places go through advocate education and training,” she said. “They know what to do and who to call. We also rely on heavy collaboration with the Police Department and shelters.”

Miner’s passion to change the plight of abused women - and men - was born and bred from watching her beloved grandmother and mother suffer severe abuse at the hands of her grandfather. Her mother, one of 11 children, remained close to her parents and siblings (Miner’s parents literally purchased a home across the street from her grandparents at the onset of her own marriage) to offer respite and escape when situations became truly violent.

“I’d look through the chain-link fence and wonder ‘Why? Why does this keep happening?” she said. “My sister and I would sit in the back seat as my mom drove my grandmother to safety, and at times to the hospital, a place she always resisted to go to. My young brain kept thinking, ‘Why does she stay?’ The abuse was continuous.”

Miner feels blessed that her parents broke the cycle of abuse and that she and her sister had a healthy family upbringing.

After raising four of her own children, Miner became certified as a Domestic Abuse Advocate hoping to understand why her grandmother withstood the abuse.

“I still had that one lingering question,” she said. “The why. And I learned pretty quickly that there’s no one reason that a survivor stays.”

In addition to raising awareness, the global non-profit implements programs for dealing with “what happens when you leave with nothing more than your children and the clothes on your back.” The St. Augustine based organization offers self defense classes and practical life workshops in health, financial budgeting, time- management, self-perception and the relational impact of drug and alcohol abuse. Facets, Miner believes, that change not only your way of thinking, but your life course.

“What you think and how feel about yourself is the base of your life,” she continued. “Self-perception dictates the chances you take, the choices you make, the relationships you stay in and the ones you leave because you know you’re worth more.”

These programs are available to all teens and adults with scholarships given to domestic abuse survivors.

Miner’s imprint is boundless. Florida locations include Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Palatka, Hastings, Flagler County and Palm Coast. Global locations include the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Northern Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Scotland and France. All locations duplicate the same donation and assistance processes.

Future projects include Carolyn’s Haven of Hope, Miner’s way of filling the gaps. Named after her 4′1″ grandmother, the program will provide transitional housing for domestic abuse victims and their families for one year. Rents will be scaled according to income.

“Carolyn’s Haven of Hope will be a place to heal in a safe environment with accountability on both ends,” said Miner. “This is life after shelter. Survivors would be in our programs and work towards a sustainable place of their own.”

Miner says that she truly believes we can collectively change the equation for those suffering domestic abuse.

“It’s time to change the pattern so domestic violence is stopped,” she concluded.

Anyone can volunteer or donate to Hopefull Handbags. Tax-deductible donations are used to fill handbags, fund workshops and cover shelter and survival costs. Volunteers can host an event or become an affiliate. For more information contact: www.HopefullHandbags.org .

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