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Editor’s note: This is a true story shared with the BW/F community to highlight the behind-the-scenes work of BW/F staff and Passageway advocates. It is told with the consent of the Passageway client. Some details have been changed to protect her privacy.
“Passageway has helped my mommy and me. We live a peaceful life now.”
This simple declaration came from the child of a non-clinical coordinator who has worked at BWH for about a decade following a frightening, life-changing ordeal that lasted two years.
“Sadly, it’s typical,” said Tina Nappi, director of Passageway, the BWH advocacy group that works to ensure the health, safety and well being of victims of domestic violence. As Passageway marked its 10th anniversary this month, Nappi detailed the story behind one of more than 5,000 clients Passageway has served.
The BWH coordinator had been married for almost as long as she worked at the hospital. The physical abuse did not begin until she was pregnant with her child several years ago, but looking back, she can see how her husband imposed control on their marriage from the beginning. But still, she tried counseling to salvage their marriage for the sake of their child and for religious reasons.
For this victim of domestic abuse, her work at BWH was a safe haven. She advanced at the hospital and gained additional responsibilities over the years and appeared to be a successful working mother. Feelings of shame and embarrassment prevented her from seeking help.
That changed when the physical and verbal abuse escalated to threats of abuse to her child, including a threat that her husband would take the child away from her. She took her child and left the marriage, and now she was really scared and feeling alone.
Fearful that he may come see her at work, she requested an escort to her car from Security. When she explained her situation to the Security staffer, he ensured her safety and suggested she contact Passageway for help. She was well aware of Passageway and its protocols for screening patients, and she called for an advocate the next morning.
“I don’t want anyone to know what’s going on,” she said, as privacy was her second most pressing concern after the safety of her child. There are five Passageway advocates who answer the Passageway pager, and there are Passageway offices in private locations within the main campus of BWH, Faulkner Hospital and Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center.
Passageway and Security worked out a safety plan and modified her parking arrangements. Her Passageway advocate guided her through the court system to obtain a restraining order against her husband and file for legal separation. The advocate helped her secure an apartment closer to her family but away from her husband. Her primary care physician and a Passageway support group helped her manage the inevitable anxiety and stress of the situation.
She is now divorced, living in safety with supportive family and friends nearby. She and her child “live a peaceful life now.”
In its first fiscal year at BWH, Passageway received 166 patient referrals. Last year, Passageway received 831 referrals and its five advocates made 19,833 service contacts with clients or community-based support services.