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November 30, 2023

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New domestic shelter asks for donations

The Bowling Green community will have its first shelter for victims of domestic violence when The Cocoon Shelter starts taking clients next month.

Last year a donation secured the location of the shelter, a small undisclosed apartment building in the Bowling Green city limits, at which renovations are now being finalized. The public is not being informed of the location for the safety of those who will be staying there.

A non-profit organization, the shelter will initially be run by one full-time employee and several volunteers, said Mary Krueger, Ph.D., president of the board of directors of The Cocoon Shelter. Krueger is also director of the Women’s Center at the University.

There are plans to eventually replace the volunteers with part-time employees as the shelter grows, she said.

The shelter will be staffed 24 hours a day by workers who will provide the clients with various services. It will be open to battered women and their children who are in need of housing, Krueger said.

“Shelter is the first service. As our staff grows, the services will grow,” Krueger said. “Right now there will be shelter, food, clothing and some advocacy for women who need to go to court with regard to their abuse cases. As we are open a little longer, six to 12 months, we plan to have programs for counseling victims and children’s programs.”

The Cocoon Shelter will be able to comfortably house 12 clients, and safely house 15 to 18 people. They are expected to stay for the industry standard of 30 days, with provisions for longer stays if needed, Krueger said.

The name of the shelter is a unique metaphor to the cause it serves, Krueger said.

“The cocoon is where you go to be protected while you undergo a change. It’s a safe space to be in as you’re changing yourself. It’s a place where you can go and undergo a change and emerge as a new form,” she said.

“In the ideal situation, that is what a domestic violence shelter provides; that is what we aspire to provide is that space. The survivors themselves provide the change, we are just lucky to provide that environment,” Krueger said.

The desperate need for a shelter has become more evident with three domestic violence homicides in the past 11 months in Bowling Green, Krueger said.

One in three women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, according to The Commonwealth Fund. And 53 percent of women who are abused do not report the incident, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

This is in part out of fear and a lack of resources in the community, said board of directors co-treasurer Jerri Weiss.

Currently there is no shelter of this kind in Bowling Green. Victims of domestic violence are forced to go miles away to shelters in Toledo, Findlay and Fostoria.

“There are women who either don’t want to or can’t leave Bowling Green,” Krueger said. “Either they work here or their kids go to school here or they don’t want to go to another town, so they stay in abusive relationships because there is no other place to go.”

Cocoon Board of Directors member, Manuela Peña-Chalupa echoed these views.

“There is really a need for a shelter for victims of abuse in Bowling Green,” Peña-Chalupa said. “Sometimes transportation is a big need, right now we don’t have something accessible here.”

But victims of domestic violence are not limited to women, Krueger said.

“Even if the children in a violent house are not physically abused themselves they are traumatized by being witnesses and have special needs,” Krueger said.

Weiss knows firsthand what it is like to live in a home where domestic violence takes place. Weiss’ mother was a victim of domestic violence.

“As a small child it’s incredibly scary to be raised in a home like that,” she said. “As a child it’s difficult to escape that kind of situation. If I can help just one woman or child escape that vicious cycle, that lifestyle, then I feel as though I have given back to the community.”

Kids are often overlooked in the transition period, said student Cassandra Castle, who is organizing an upcoming benefit show at Howard’s Club H for the shelter.

“Women need to stay in their communities not only for work but for their kids,” Castle said. “The transition is hard for kids. We don’t currently have a facility in town and I really don’t want children to be overlooked.”

The location is meant to be safe and undisclosed, Krueger said. Only clients and service providers will know the location of the shelter.

People who have worked on the building, such as carpenters, have been asked to sign a release to not disclose the location, Krueger said.

The plans for the shelter originated in 1999 when a Partnerships for Community Action grant was awarded. PCA funds small projects that are collaborative efforts between University initiatives and those within the community, Krueger said.

Krueger, who came to the University in 1998, saw a need for a shelter immediately.

“One of the first things I noticed when I got here was there was no domestic violence shelter in Bowling Green,” she said. “I just thought that was a really major problem, a major gap and couldn’t figure out how that could be.”

Krueger then wrote a grant proposal to PCA to fund a project to investigate services for battered women in the area. A need was determined and the shelter was founded in spring 2004.

The board of directors also received consultation from the police department regarding the physical security of the building and they will be the main escorts for women who will use the shelter, Krueger said.

They also received referrals from Child and Family Services, Wood County Hospital and Behavior Services, Krueger said.

Involvement from the community has been tremendous, Krueger said. There have been many donations from church congregations, individuals and businesses.

“In terms of people’s attitudes, it’s been just so positive. We’re just blown away,” Krueger said. “The professionals who know best what it’s like to not have adequate services for victims of domestic violence are really stepping up and saying we want to help you make this successful.”

There has been a collaboration from many parts of the community, Krueger said.

A series of benefits have been held to raise more funds for the shelter, Krueger said. Most recently was last weekend, The Vagina Monologues, with all the proceeds going to The Cocoon Shelter.

So far funds from the production total in excess of $7,000 have been raised, said producer Ashlee Rauckhorst.

“We donated to the shelter last year also and we thought it was a good cause that will benefit women of Bowling Green,” Rauckhorst said.

Other recent events include a housing warming party, held in December by the Bowling Green chapter of the American Association of University Women.

“What we decided to do was bring gifts for The Cocoon Shelter, in a effort to get them stocked and ready to start,” said Diane Regan, president of the AAUW. “The issue of domestic violence and relationship violence is on the increase. One of our major missions is equity for women and women in abusive relationships desperately need a shelter in Bowling Green.”

Weiss, who has been talking to local congregations about the shelter, finds there is still a need to get the word out to the community.

“I’m finding that the bigger hurdle, as far as my position, is there is a lack of knowledge of this issue,” Weiss said. “The biggest challenge has been making people aware that this is an issue.”

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