Domestic Abuse Intervention Services: Learn More About DAIS and Why We Support This Organization

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services: Learn More About DAIS and Why We Support This Organization

WodBottom isn’t just a clothing brand. We’re also deeply committed to empowering women through domestic violence prevention and education. As a survivor of domestic abuse herself, WodBottom co-founder Emily Ruyle knew she wanted to impact the lives of other survivors in some way. (Read Emily’s story here).

Emily and her husband/business partner Than decided early on that WodBottom would be a conduit for social change. That’s why a portion of every purchase goes to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Dane County, Wisconsin. This local organization does incredible work to provide emergency shelter, support survivors, and prevent domestic abuse in the Madison area and beyond.

We talk about DAIS a lot around here, but we spoke with Mary Donahue, Director of Development and Communications for DAIS, to learn more about the nonprofit, its services, and what is on the horizon for the organization.

Read the interview with Mary below to learn how DAIS is making a difference, one client at a time.

Tell me about DAIS – who you are, what you do, and whom you serve.

DAIS has been around since 1977. That makes us 45 years in service to people who have been impacted by domestic violence. 

Walk me through the process of receiving services. What would happen if someone contacted DAIS in need of help?

It would begin with the call to our 24-hour helpline. We are staffed 24/7/365 to take incoming calls to provide support information, referrals to DAIS services, including our shelter. Also referrals to community agencies and safety planning, which is kind of how to exit and keep yourself protected and safe.

So once you get into our helpline, there are a number of different directions that someone might take. Traditionally, one would get assigned to our case management team.

What happens when someone receives case management services from DAIS?

A case manager helps to assess the client’s needs depending upon whether they need shelter or they’re in a situation where they are best remaining what we call a community client. So, they’re not living in our space, they’re living in their own space.

We may do things like provide direct aid to do a lock change or other security measures around the home that they wish to stay in and not come into shelter. 

[Case managers also provide] connection to other resources in the community, whether that’s employment, health, mental health, transportation, banking, all sorts of things. 

One of the things that is often not top of mind when you think of people who are impacted by intimate partner violence is that when they leave an abuser, they may not have any of their own vital records. So, case managers do things that are sometimes just as impactful as making sure that a parent has all of their children’s birth certificates, they have their own birth certificate, they are able to reclaim their identity, if you will, in order to rent a new apartment or apply for benefits or any number of things. 

Someone leaving a situation like that may leave with very few possessions, but [they also might leave ] without any way of proving who I am or where I’m from. 

Case managers help people navigate through any kind of service or necessity that they have during that time. 

DAIS provides emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence and their children. Can you talk more about your shelter program?

One of the things that DAIS is particularly known for is our shelter, because we are the only shelter in Dane County, [Wisconsin].

We provide temporary shelter for the victims of IPV and their children when they’re in situations that have a high potentiality of lethality. The higher [the risk of lethality], the more rapidly we’re going to put them into our services. Everything from that night into a hotel to helping them manage that exit into our shelter.

All of our employees have gone through training to be aware and sensitive to those issues [surrounding domestic violence] to provide what we call trauma informed care. 

We do deal with a lot of folks who are also experiencing homelessness, but it has to be homelessness partnered with intimate partner violence. Domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness for women. It’s pretty jarring. 

What happens once a client or clients are in shelter?

Once you are in shelter, there are some specific programs available only in shelter. One of those is our parent, child, and youth advocacy. It’s really centered around the impacts of domestic violence on the family. We talk about family safety planning. We talk about parenting conversations so that the non-offending parent can talk to the kids about what they’ve been through, help them process their feelings, help them understand, and open the door for those communications. 

We do also have a family space in our facility where the parents and the children can have apart time so the parents can participate in support group work.

Tell me about the new text hotline. That’s certainly exciting news for DAIS and the women in your community!

Last week, we announced the launch of a 24/7 DAIS text line. We are very excited about it. It provides opportunity for [clients to] safely and silently make an outreach for our assistance. One of the other benefits is that it enables us to engage with a deaf and hard of hearing community. 

And probably most profoundly, just in terms of numbers, is working in a platform that is the preferred means of communication for younger demographic. We know from statistics that young women between the ages of 16 and 24 are most likely to encounter intimate partner violence. So it really is providing a conduit for a demographic that is much more comfortable with texting someone than on a traditional phone call. 

So we’re super excited about that. It is a pretty big deal. It took us about a year to work out all of the kinks. [Our platform] provides end-to-end encryption and immediate deletion from the cache of that conversation so that it could not be subpoenaed in a legal proceeding.

How many people receive DAIS services each year?

Last year, we had 6,953 calls to the helpline. Shelter numbers were down last year [due to the pandemic], we had 224 unduplicated clients, 93 adults and 131 children.

Case management numbers were up quite a bit. Last year, we had 333 unduplicated clients, which was almost a 50% increase over 2020.

One of our rockstar programs is our legal advocacy program, where they served 828 clients.

I know DAIS is focused on prevention and community awareness. Tell me more about that.

Our wheelhouse is crisis intervention, but it is not our only focus. We do have a dream of someday putting ourselves out of business, that there be a world where DAIS and our services would not be needed and people weren’t experiencing this kind of violence in their intimate partner relationships. But we’re not there yet. 

So, one of the things that we [do] to get to that day is prevention, outreach, education, and training program (POET). We do a number of activities within that, one of them is called CAPES, Community Awareness and Prevention Education. 

[These programs] provide workshops and presentations that we tailor to specific groups. For instance, we might do one for hair stylists, because [they] see and hear particular things. We might do one for the workplace, because the impact of domestic violence on a workplace can be really profound. It can be both economically devastating to an organization and dangerous.

We’ll talk to law enforcement, teachers, you name it. We can tailor it to just about anything. 

One of the [trainings] we frequently do is a domestic violence 101. What are we talking about? Who does it impact, why does it happen? Domestic violence happens anywhere. It crosses every demographic. It happens in every neighborhood. It happens to people of every faith and color and orientation. It can happen anywhere.

I know we focus a lot on women when we talk about domestic violence, but you also have programs for men, right?

Yeah, one of the other programs that we do on the prevention side the Men Encouraging Non-Violent Strengths (MENS). We’ve applied for a couple of grants to expand this programming to even younger ages, but right now it is currently focused on high school and middle school aged groups of male-identified youth. 

It really gets at the root causes of gender-based violence. We talk about being a good ally, how to be an active bystander, we talk about all sorts of things. We try to unfurl some of those pieces of masculinity that wind up being issues within relationships, talk about how to have a healthy relationship at an age where people are embarking upon their first ones, and definitely forming some of their ideas around the issues of control within a relationship. 

What impact do donations, like those provided by WodBottom, have on your organization? 

Well, quite succinctly, if we didn’t have donations, we would be stopped at our tracks. We are the recipient of a number of public grants, everything from federal dollars to municipal However, we see that number go down year after year after year after year. 

Over the years, the number of private dollars that are required to keep us going, just to keep us doing what we did a year ago, grows. In the past year, more than half of our annual budget needed to be fundraised from individuals, corporations, foundations. 

One of the things that we talk about frequently here at DAIS is that domestic violence is a community issue. It doesn’t just impact the people within the walls of a home. It impacts the community. And as such, it requires a community solution. And when people make a contribution to see us continue this work, they become part of that community.

How can WodBottom clients and other members of the community learn more about DAIS? How can we support the organization directly?

I would encourage people to follow us on social media (find the DAIS Facebook page here), find out what we’re up to, and get engaged. 

[If you want to help DAIS directly], the best way is to go to our website and see how you would like to connect with us. Perhaps they’d like to volunteer, maybe they’d like to donate, maybe do a drive to provide families with necessities, there are a number of ways to do that. 

Click here to connect with DAIS and get involved!

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