Aware Central Texas helps people of all ages and all walks of life, like the middle-aged woman who was stuck in an abusive marriage.
“I had never met her before,” said Sue Ellen Jackson, Aware executive director. “She just came to the training, and said, ‘For the first time since I can remember I got in my car without him telling me where to go and how to drive.’”
The woman is one of about 14,000 people who walk through the doors of Aware Central Texas, a Belton-based nonprofit that helps those people deal with child abuse and family violence.
Jackson said the woman spent her life living in fear, but gained the courage to drive to the Aware facility several weeks ago.
“She said she sat in the parking lot and wept.”
The woman was relieved, Jackson said, because she felt the life of abuse and violence finally coming to an end. She is now on of 365 Aware volunteers who work to help others avoid abusive lifestyles.
Prevention is the key objective of the community-based organization, Jackson said. Aware first opened in the area about six years ago.
“We are serving people, hopefully, before the abuse occurs,” she said. “Everybody is affected by child abuse and family violence, and we want to impact everybody.”
The organization focuses on primary prevention by teaching single moms how to avoid predators before having to deal with them, teaching teenagers how to look out for potentially violent dating partners, and teaching children to prevent bullying and cautiously use the internet.
Jackson said Aware also provides classes and home mentorship for people at risk of abuse.
“We are all at risk at some point in our life and that means whether they had an incident at home involving (Child Protective Services) or law enforcement,” she said.
The organization constantly works cases of families that keep abuse hidden.
“They want encouragement or want to make sure it doesn’t go to the next generation,” Jackson said.
She gave an example of generational abuse, based on a call Aware took from a woman last week.
“She said her grandfather had abused her generation and the next generation and the whole family was covering it up,” Jackson said. “She was the only one speaking out and the family was ostracizing her.”
Ninety-eight percent of child abuse and molestation cases are committed by individuals known to the victim.
Aware recently received a $3,500 award from the Noon Exchange Club of Copperas Cove to help the organization with its ongoing mission. Aware is partners with the club, said Mike Blount, outgoing Exchange president.
“It’s a pleasure that this is the money that comes from the Ride for the Child motorcycle ride we made this year,” he said. “And we always try to make sure to give 100 percent of the money to Aware.”
Jackson said Aware Central Texas is spreading the message by hosting a series on KNCT-TV to teach the community about the effects of child abuse and family violence.
“It has to be stopped,” she said. “It’s such a vicious cycle.”