Updated: Jun 27, 2019
We were sitting outside at a local ice cream shop greeting passing dogs and their owners while enjoying the summer evening, when one of the women blurted out, “So….this is what normal people do!” We had just come from an event at the Drexel Theater in Bexley where we had attended a “Conversation About Domestic Violence” between award-winning journalist Rachel Louise Snyder and Lynn Rosenthal, the first ever White House advisor on Violence Against Women. Ms. Snyder was sharing about her newest book, No Visible Bruises. When she said it, all four of us burst out laughing at the honesty of the statement. For her, she had been out of prison for almost 30 days and this is her first time in recovery.
While the program goals of Rachel’s House are helping women gain financial self-sufficiency through employment, financial literacy and goal setting, healthy reunification with families, and building positive support networks, one of the great joys is helping women to create a new life where they can learn to have fun in their free time, explore hobbies and interests that they are passionate about, such as reading and domestic violence awareness (all 3 women are survivors of), and enjoy spending time with friends without the chaotic drug lifestyle. For most women, they have not had the opportunity or benefit of this and it is new to them. The close-knit Rachel’s House community helps to create a safe space where women can explore these things without feeling ashamed that they have never been to an ice cream shop to enjoy conversation with friends without being high or feel safe enough as they gain a sense of self-awareness where they can feel positive emotions and it not be awkward or feel guilty for having a good time.
One of the questions that we get from new volunteers is “what kind of things do the ladies like to do?” My response is usually, “they don’t know!” Then I will explain that for many of the women, they are not only starting out their new post-prison life in the practical ways such as finding a job and earning a paycheck, but are really embarking on a journey of creating a new life for themselves such that the old life does not appeal anymore. For volunteers, we invite you to share what you enjoy doing as a “normal person.” This would include things like hiking at the metro parks, browsing art festivals or antique stores, swinging along the Scioto Mile at sunset and talking about your childhood, smelling the roses at Whetstone Park of Roses, or visiting the Main library and talking about the types of books you enjoy. There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing the things that bring you joy with another person.
Oh, and by the way, “normal” is only a setting on the dryer. ☺
Emmalyn Jerome, Director of Rachel's House