Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Pat Dean’s dream: An end to domestic violence

Pat Dean

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Pat Dean’s dream: An end to domestic violence
October 31
02:10 2019

After more than 40 years of working with survivors of domestic violence, there’s one question that Pat Dean gets asked over and over again.

“People always ask me how I’ve been able to do this work so long,” Dean chuckles. “What we do at Family Services is not work to me. This is ministry.”

In the late ‘60s, Dean knew she wanted to do something with her life where she could work with people, but she said she wasn’t exactly sure what that was. The Winston-Salem native graduated from Anderson High School and then began attending Winston-Salem State University.

Dean began her work in domestic violence in 1978, when Winston-Salem became one of only two East Coast cities between Baltimore and Atlanta to open a battered women’s shelter.

“I saw on the news that we were opening a shelter for abused women, and I thought was something I’d be interested in,” she recalled.

At the time it opened, the Women’s Shelter was run by the YWCA. It was a house on Second Street and Dean said they could house 10 to 12 women comfortably, with bunk beds in a communal living situation. Dean was one of three advocate counselors who worked at the shelter in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and they all kept their pagers close in case they were needed when they were not at the shelter.

“But it was actually the volunteers and survivors who did a lot of the work back then,” Dean said. “The survivors taught us how to do the work. We learned from them. It was their experiences that helped us formulate what needed to be done, and we went out and picked people up when they were in crisis.”

Sometimes the advocates and volunteers would load up in the station wagon and call the police to be on standby. Sometimes they did it without the police, which led to a few close calls when the abuser came home and found them moving out.

“Those were the days,” Dean laughed. “We wouldn’t dream of doing it that way today. But we were still figuring it all out back then.”

That’s not the only thing that’s different today.

Back then, Dean said they saw a lot more women who were more severely beaten than they tend to see today. Dean credits that to the education Family Services and others have done throughout the years. Dean said that’s proof that the right programs and volunteers truly can make a difference. But that doesn’t mean the problem went away, she said.

Last year, Family Services provided safe shelter to 45 women and 78 children for a total of 6,044 nights and handled 1,170 crisis line calls. In Winston-Salem alone, police responded to nearly 6,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2018. Nearly a quarter of those victims were male.

In addition to the physical violence, Dean said, a lot of times the emotional and psychological abuse can be just as bad.

Today, as Family Services program manager of victim services, Dean said she knows that all advocates can do is continue that education and be there to support survivors when they are willing to accept facts and make a change.

Dean doesn’t like to talk about retirement too much. She said there’s too much she still wants to do, but at the top of the list of things she’d like to see happen before she passes the torch is an effort to use education in the schools and stop abuse before it ever manifests.

“Until we can get into the school system and the churches and do some real education, we won’t ever be able to reach the youth we need to reach,” she said. “ I think one of the main things I’d like to see happen is that we are finally able to get a majority of the faith community on board and invested in this mission to end domestic violence in Forsyth County.”

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