“I knew I wanted to do something really meaningful and wonderful with my life.”
Lynn had been practicing law for 32 years when she decided she was ready for a change.

A friend of hers told her about a position that was opening at Bridges Domestic Violence Center, a United Way partner agency in Franklin, Tenn.

“I knew I wanted to do something really meaningful and wonderful with my life,” she said.

That meaning—she found it at Bridges.

“Everybody’s there because they want to be there. They have a purpose, and they have a passion.”

The team at Bridges helps victims and survivors of domestic violence find a pathway to safety and independence. They’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a hotline and crisis team ready to take action at a moment’s notice.

“If we get a hotline call and someone needs immediate attention, be it in the afternoon or 3 a.m.—it doesn’t make any difference—we will go out and meet that person, tell them about the options that they have to come in with us. You know, safety, a warm bed, clothes, food, whatever they need, and they will not have to worry about being abused.”

Their staff has a strong relationship with the local and state police who will often call them to the scene of an assault to talk to victims.

“Our program is one of empowerment. We do not make decisions for the victims that come in under our roof. We help them set up their goals, their budgets, etcetera.”

Bridges staffs court advocates to help arrange for orders of protection and support victims while they testify. They even have team members to work directly with children who have witnessed abuse.

“The older children, they’re well aware of what’s been going on in the household and they need help. The children’s advocate takes care of them. She acts as a liaison between school administrators and the children. We try to keep victims and their children within their same school system … because they’ve already left the house. While the first trauma is the abuse, the second trauma is leaving the house. And they don’t need to be revictimized by having to move out of county, out of state, out of their school district.”

Lynn says when families first come to the shelter, staff try to give them their space for the first 72 hours as they adjust to their new environment.

“They hopefully realize they’re safe, they’ve been given clothing, there’s food in the refrigerator for days. They have everything they could possibly need to feel safe and secure.”

After that initial settling in period, case managers connect families with a support group and start to help them make a plan to rebuild.

“The support group is really nice. They’ll often make many friends there, and they’ll rely on those friends. I think just walking into the support group, looking around and realizing, ‘I’m not the only person this is happening too’ is helpful … and like, ‘Wait a minute. It’s not just me. I wasn’t weak. It’s happened to so many people.’ ”

Bridges is the only domestic violence shelter in Williamson County.

“Everyone thinks that Williamson County shouldn’t have these issues. It’s so far from the truth. Domestic violence is really about power and control and it spans every socioeconomic class. It spans every generation. It spans every race, every culture.”

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