Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Happens When Marketing Executives Spend Their Spare Time Combatting Abuse?

Theresa's Fund and its offspring, domesticshelters.org, are what happens when marketing executives decide to spend their spare time combatting abuse.

Google domesticshelters.org and you will find it has not only a website, but a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Pinterest account, and an Instagram account.  Peruse the website, and you will find that they also have a You Tube account.  The domesticshelters.org, the Facebook page, and the Twitter are all updated regularly with thoughtful articles about abuse.  The website also includes a data base of domestic violence shelters and related services around the country and information domestic violence victims need to know to keep themselves safe.

This media outreach to survivors, advocates, and the community at large, is the brain child of two content marketing executives -- Preston V. McMurry Jr. and his son, Chris McMurry.

According to the website of the Content Marketing Institute. (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/), "Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

This appears to be exactly what domesticshelters.org is doing, except that the services the website offers are mostly free of charge.

Domesticshelters.org is the creation of Chris McMurry who was inspired to fight abuse and family violence by his father, Preston (Pres) V. McMurry Jr..  Pres founded Theresa's Fund to support organizations combatting family violence and named it after his late wife, Donna, who was born Theresa in a mountain top village in Italy.  Theresa was raped, burned with red hot pokers, and beaten so badly that both her hips and eardrums broke -- all by age 4.  She was so badly abused that she was removed from her parents care and adopted out to an American family.  She remembered none of the abuse but suffered psychological consequences anyway.  A loving and devoted wife and devoted stepmother to Pres' children from a previous marriage, she still struggled with touch and with the ability to trust enough to remain married.  She and Pres attended weekly therapy for ten years, but ten years of therapy did not make a dent in Donna’s ability to receive intimacy.  So Pres took her to Italy on the advice of their therapist with the hope of finding out more about the childhood that her mind had repressed so completely.  During an otherwise enchanting trip to Italy, they saw the remains of the home where Donna was born and abused, met the neighbor who sometimes sheltered her, and became reacquainted with the older half sister who still loved her, and others who knew her and what happened to her.  Unfortunately, facing the past was so challenging that her emotional trauma caused her to leave Pres.  He was so heart broken over losing his lovely wife that suicide seemed like a reasonable answer to his pain.  Fortunately he followed an epiphany instead and founded Theresa's Fund to provide funding for organizations combatting family violence.   Pres named his foundation after Donna, who was given the name Theresa by her Italian birth parents.

To learn more about the story of Pres and Donna Theresa and how she inspired him to found Theresa's Fund, read the following three blogs that tell their story:

In the last 23 years Theresa's Fund has raised and donated more than $49,000,000.00 to support shelters and advocacy non-profits combatting abuse in Arizona.  Pres McMurry has also donated his marketing and fund raising know how to organizations outside of Arizona.

The McMurrys developed their marketing and advertising skills from their business careers.  Preston Jr. founded McMurry Inc. and Chris served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company for many years.  McMurry Inc. was recently bought by a Wall Street investment firm, leaving Pres and Chris with much more free time on their hands.  Chris chose to occupy his time by walking in his father's footsteps and creating domesticshelters.org -- the website and data base of domestic violence shelters and advocates across the United States.

On the home page of domesticshelters.org you will find a tab across the top of the page labeled "Find domestic violence help, shelter near you".  If you type in your address or zip code to that space, a list of domestic violence services near you will appear.

Above this you will find a tab labeled "RESOURCES".  It includes the growing list of articles all sorted by topic, and as well as new, first-of-its-kind Statistics area that offers Domestic Violence help statistics by state and by topic.
Below that are two tabs with activated links.  One labeled "Be Safe" takes you to a set of instructions on how to keep your web browsing private in case you are still living with an abusive person who doesn't want to let go of controlling you.

To the right is a tab labeled "Be Smart" with lots of articles on different aspects of the abuse issue.  These include links to an article about an organization that helps women experiencing domestic violence while living overseas, an article on safety for undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse, an article for male victims of domestic violence and the unique stigmas they face, and an article on how men can help stop rape.

At the bottom right of the page is “Domestic Violence FAQ” which includes articles on the most important basic information for domestic violence survivors: How to get a Personal Protection Order, A Deadly Cycle, and Abusive Red Flags Everyone Should Know.

At the bottom right you can find links to domesticshelters.org social media including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Bottom left includes links for contacting domesticshelters.org as well as ways to advertise your organization and services on the site.  Any organization can be listed for free.  Domesticshelters.org charges organizations nominal fees of $10 and $20 a month for more detailed listings of their services.  As any non-profit employee knows, only so much can be done by volunteers.  However, while Pres and Chris donate their services mostly for free, there are other bills the organization has to pay.  Web hosting services are not free, and non-profits have to pay rent and utility bills just like the rest of us.  

None-the-less, Theresa’s Fund and domesticshelters.org provide valuable services for victims, family members, other supporters and advocates as well as the community and the country.  They plan to expand their listings to overseas resources in the coming year.

© 2015 Virginia Pickles Jones
Contact Virginia at compassion500@gmail.com.

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Fifth Memory (Was Being Sexually Abused at Age Four)

I have four memories before I was sexually abused at age four during the summer of 1963.

My very first memory took place when I was about 17 months old.  I remember standing by my Dad’s plant building where my family first lived when we came to Colusa County, California, in 1960.  I remember the white painted siding of the building and the outfit I was wearing, probably a hand-me-down from my brother -- greyish baggy pants and greyish baby t-shirt.  There is nothing more to the memory.  I have no idea why I remember such a dull and minor incident, but I do.

My next memory was much more upsetting.  It took place the following October.  My heavily pregnant mother was walking from the house to the garage by the plant building near our rural home.    It was raining and the the dirt road that led from the house to the garage was pockmarked with rained filled potholes.  I had trouble walking around these holes and felt abandoned.  I wanted and needed help that never came.  I started to cry.  Looking back I guess my mother had carried me up from house to car up until then and then stopped because it was too challenging to carry a toddler while 8 months pregnant.

My little brother was born a few weeks later.  I don’t remember that, but I do remember the present I received for Christmas that year -- 1961.  It was a Jack-N-the-Box.  I remember winding the Jack-N-the-Box up and the music the box produced and then the clown springing out.  I loved winding up the box and watching the clown spring out.  I pushed him back in the box over and over and over and watched him spring out over and over and over.

My fourth memory is a happy memory of a grim time.  I remember the visit we made to a San Francisco bay tidal model after visiting my Mom at a Langley Porter psychiatric hospital.  I don’t remember visiting my Mom at the hospital at all.  I only remember the visit to the tidal model.  It showed the physical relief San Francisco Bay.  The model would flood with water and the water would then drain away in the direction of the tidal and river currents.

My fifth memory was of the time two teenaged boys from my neighborhood took me into the basement and sexually abused me.  I remember how they had these stick like things growing from their groins and how they held me for each other to abuse.

I did not understand what was happening to me, but I knew it was wrong.  My parents had told me that these were my private parts and that no one was to touch them.  And here were these boys trying to put their sticks in my privates.

I didn’t tell anyone about what happened for two years.  My mother was still having emotional struggles that resulted in more hospitalizations.  Finally her psychiatrist placed her in Sonoma State Mental Hospital that was an unpleasant place to be.  My mother had liked Langley Porter and wanted to stay there.  She hated Sonoma State, and after her stay there resolved to hold herself together enough to stay out of psychiatric hospitals.  At least that is what she told me years later.

I don’t know why I remained silent about the abuse.  The boys did not threaten me if I talked about what happened.  I think I remained silent because my family was too troubled for me to feel able to talk.  My father, who was extremely intelligent, related to my brother and me better when we got older.  I don’t think he knew very well how to talk to and care for small children.  And then he was trying to run a business was well.  When my mother first went away, he had us spend overnights with our day babysitter for weeks on end until he prevailed on my great aunt to come care for us.  My great aunt stayed for a month or so, and then my mother returned home just before I entered kindergarten.  My great aunt was very loving, and I was happy when she came to care for us, but the months we were with our day babysitter I felt unloved.  I did not understand why my parents did not want me.  That two boys had placed their sticks in my privates one time was the least of my troubles.

But eventually I did talk about what those boys did to me..

I told my mother what happened two summers after the incident.  We were on a camping trip at Salmon Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  I loved the mountains and the creek.  I was happy and having fun and feeling loved and maybe I felt able to share what happened.

My mother responded, “That’s where babies come from.”

She said and did nothing more.  I don’t blame her.  Years later I heard from a relative that she, too, had been sexually abused by someone in the neighborhood as a child.  Looking back I now understand her hospitalizations for depression and her addictions to alcohol and cigarettes that ended her life at age 67 despite the fact that both her parents had lived to age 80.

Perhaps to my mother what happened to me seemed normal because something similar had happened to her.  Nobody had done anything about what happened to her so there was nothing to do about what happened to me.

Unfortunately my mother’s nonchalant response to my abuse left me with the message that my experiences were not significant.  Forty-two years passed before I began to examine what happened that summer day in 1963 -- the summer day two teenaged boys lured me into a basement.

The event that caused me to finally start speaking about what happened to me was the removal from my parish in Oregon of the priest who baptized my children and me Catholic.  Actually that removal and its aftermath only got me started thinking more consequentially about what had happened to me as a child and as a young adult.  It took me another three years before I fully came to terms with my abuse in 1963, and a date rape I suffered as a young adult in 1981.

A note to the reader:  I did not write down the events surrounding my abuse as a child until 2005, when I came to terms with the abuse I endured as a child and the date rape I endured as a young adult.  My diaries record the latter experience in much detail.  The former experience I never forgot but it exists on the edge of my memories.  My story is more memoir rather than autobiography in part because some of it is based on old memories and, in part, because I have changed some names and places and circumstances to protect both the innocent and the guilty.  My goal is to educate and inform as well as entertain rather than to inflict vengeance on those who hurt me.  I seek a change in culture and attitude in society.  We can only do this by talking about abuse and how it harms individuals and families and affects the community.  Keep reading my blog and, as time permits, I will share more of my story with you.

(c) 2015 Virginia Pickles Jones