Bolton Refuge House and JONAH

By Katelyn Wonderlin

When I first moved to Wisconsin I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To start with, I was certainly unprepared for the winter. You would think having come from Illinois, another midwestern state, I would already understand how harsh winter could be. I am here today to tell you, moving 6 hours more north makes a world of difference. That wasn’t the only realization I would come to have since moving to the Badger State. 

I moved to Eau Claire during the summer of 2020. I was then lucky enough to accept a position at Bolton Refuge House here in Eau Claire. My work at BRH is as a Sexual Assault Mobile Victim Advocate. This means that I am the “outside” part of the organization. My work focuses on how to better serve survivors of violence out in the community. As such, I spend a lot of time researching local organizations and finding possible opportunities for collaboration. It was during one of these searches that I came across JONAH. 

From the moment I saw the topics listed on the website to the moment I saw the COVID-19 memes, I knew I wanted to reach out. 

It might not seem immediately intuitive that an organization focused on helping those affected by domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault would have a lot in common with an organization like JONAH, but the parallels are staggering. 

Just like JONAH, we work to improve our community and empower individuals. A perfect example can be seen in the Affordable Housing program. As a victim advocate, I work directly with survivors of violence, where I am able to listen to the resources they most need for their safety, health, and healing. All of our services are at no cost to the survivor and completely confidential, but for this next story I was given the permission from the individual to share this story.  Recently, I was meeting with a survivor, and they disclosed to me that they felt they couldn’t leave their abuser because if they did they would have nowhere to go. They felt that without their abuser they would be alone on the streets. This vulnerability would then remind them of their trauma and how unsafe they felt in moments of violence. This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon story. Many survivors feel that until they can get their own housing, they didn’t feel safe leaving their abuser. 

It is very common in abusive relationships for the abuser to isolate the survivor until they feel they have no one else to turn to. Furthermore, when the abuser is the one in charge of the housing (their name is on the lease, they own the home, etc.) they will further use the home as a manner of manipulation and exerting control over the survivor. Housing is important for the safety and the future of survivors. 

I could go even further in breaking down how holistic the healing must be for survivors. Violence affects everyone and it is our responsibility as a community to come together for survivors and for ourselves. 

If you or anyone you know would like to speak with an advocate, call us at (715)834-9578. We are open 24/7.