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Women’s shelter executive director keeps promise to help other womenOriginally Published October 7, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.
Updated October 7, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.
Beth Goodrich of Conway became executive director of the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas in 2007 after serving the shelter in other capacities. Goodrich, who has seven siblings, said her stepfather abused her mother for years, but she left him when Goodrich was 12. Help for victims of domestic abuse is available by calling the crisis hotline at the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas in Conway at (866) 358-2265.
When Beth Goodrich of Conway was 12, she saw her abusive stepfather choking her mother.
It wasn’t the first time — but it would be the last.
“The next morning, we put all our stuff in trash bags and left,” Goodrich said.
Her experiences have given her a different perspective in her job.
Goodrich, 35, executive director of the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas, can relate to the stories of domestic violence that women tell.
A native of Springdale, her parents divorced when she was a toddler. Her mother remarried when Goodrich was 3. For nine years, she saw her stepfather abuse her mother in various ways. Then he stalked them for two years after they left.
“He was very controlling, very manipulative, very violent,” Goodrich said.
“He would load weapons and say he was going to kill us and kill himself, and Mom would have to talk him down,” she said.
Goodrich said the only other person who knew about the abuse was her maternal grandmother, who had stayed with her abusive husband until her children, including Goodrich’s mother, were out of high school.
“That’s what you did,” Goodrich said.
She remembers her stepfather, who also abused alcohol, choking her mother on two different incidents in the kitchen. The last time he did it, they were outside.
“He got upset with something she said, and he had thrown her down on the ground and was on top of her,” Goodrich said.
Goodrich and her older sister ran to the neighbor’s house and could hear their mother screaming.
The woman asked Goodrich and her sister if they wanted her to call the police.
Goodrich immediately said yes, but her older sister, trained and threatened by their father to protect him, said no.
“He also told us if the police came and he shot them, it would be our fault,” Goodrich said.
The neighbor didn’t do anything.
“I thought, ‘If I’m ever that lady, I’m going to help,’” Goodrich said.
Her commitment didn’t waver. As a teenager, she set goals. Goodrich was accepted to Central Baptist College in Conway when she was a junior at Springdale High School.
She got married after her freshman year, but she didn’t let it get her off track.
She was in the first class of counseling program graduates.
“I pretty much knew, really, how I did not want to end up, so I worked toward that from a young age,” she said.
Her first job out of CBC was at Choosing to Excel; then she started having children and became a stay-at-home mom.
She and her husband have five — count ’em: five — sons, ranging in age from 3 to 13.
They are being raised seeing their parents resolve conflicts without violence, she said. The couple’s faith plays a big role in their lives, too, Goodrich said. They are members of a Lutheran church.
Goodrich wanted to work in the field again, and in 2005, she started a weekend shift at the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas, answering the hotline, checking in new clients and performing other such duties.
“It was really interesting seeing it from the other side,” she said. “[The abused women] didn’t think their children knew about the abuse. I’d say, ‘Children do see; children do know. I’ve been the child, so I understand.’”
From there, Goodrich took a Monday-through-Friday job at the shelter with the same duties, and in 2006, Goodrich was hired as the shelter’s sexual-assault program coordinator. When former Executive Director Mary Spears left, Goodrich was hired in January 2007 to replace her.
Although a lot of Goodrich’s job is administrative, she still interacts with clients.
“I get a good number of people just walking in here,” she said of her office in Wren Corner on Siebenmorgen Road.
“They sit, and they talk, and we safety-plan,” she said “Sometimes, it’s not their desire to go to a shelter, or I’ve had them sit and talk, and they go to the shelter.”
The fact is, Goodrich said, most women do leave an abusive relationship and go back — an average of seven times — before they leave for good.
“Advocacy is hard,” she said. “It’s hard to guide them in a healthy direction while allowing them to make the choices they want to make. It’s learning how to be supportive when they make decisions you wouldn’t make and hope that they come back because they felt respected.”
Success stories do happen.
Goodrich recalled one woman who came to the shelter with her two little girls who had “the sweetest dispositions,” she said.
The mother had no self-confidence and went back to her abuser.
One day, the doorbell at the shelter rang, and Goodrich answered it (only staff members answer the door). It was that former client.
“There she is, and she’s got all these bags of stuff. She said, ‘I just brought donations. I left my husband, and me and the girls are just doing so good,’” Goodrich said, smiling as she told the story.
“She said, ‘I remember what you said to me, that I could do whatever I want to do.’”
Goodrich said the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas has room for 22 people,
women and children.
“In previous years, we would get full once or twice a year. This year, we’ve been full a lot,” she said.
October is usually busy because it’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the subject is discussed.
Women stay at the shelter anywhere from a few days to months, and they are required to look for employment.
“I want to be progressive,” she said. “I want to have the shelter that victims feel safe and they enjoy being here. I know that sounds weird — who enjoys being at a shelter? I want people who come to our shelter to feel like they’re at home.”
Goodrich said that although domestic-violence awareness has improved, she gets frustrated with existing attitudes in society.
“We don’t put the blame where it goes,” she said. “Our problem is, we’re so busy blaming her for that guy and the crime he’s committing. The reality is, she’s committing no crime. Where’s the outrage of what he’s doing to that family?
“We cannot allow the idea that the victim is responsible. That’s what the abuser tells her.”
Goodrich said that although domestic violence can be between same-sex couples, and men can be victims, 80 to 95 percent of domestic violence crimes are committed by men against women.
“We label it a women’s issue, but what we really need is for men to say, ‘This is not right.’ Men need to tell other men, ‘This is not OK.’”
Goodrich said her biological father is “a good guy,” and he had visitation rights. She spent every other weekend in a normal household, which she said made a lot of difference in her life.
Goodrich is happily
married and has five boys, and her mother has thrived.
“My mom is good now,” she said.
Goodrich often wonders about some women who have come through the shelter — whether they left their abuser.
“Sometimes all that you get is you know while they were here, they were safe,” she said.
And Goodrich is the little girl who grew up to be the lady who helps.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.