SWFL shelter equipping kids with skills to spot, prevent domestic abuse

A shelter is stepping up to teach kids to see the signs of domestic violence before it’s too late. It’s using social media to help children identify domestic violence and abusive relationships.

The Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Collier County explained to us why educating children about the signs of abuse in the family can help change lives.

“There’s a lot of education on there, and at first, we were hesitant,” Vail Fisher said. “But then, we realized so many kids asked if we had a TikTok.”

Connecting with the younger generation is Fisher’s goal.

“This is pretty much our last chance to get this information to them before they could have a chance of entering into our shelter,” Fisher said.

Fisher wants to keep kids away from abusive relationships.

“We go all out,” Fisher said. “We talk about how dating violence can be happening right now. We talk about how there are abusive relationships within the high schools that are really comparable to relationships that happen here with adults.”

Fisher is the community education training director at the shelter. She and her team go to schools across Collier County.

During summer break, social media comes into play.

“I can’t tell you how many kids have started to follow us and say they want to see their advocate,” Fisher said. “Or a kid reached out to us and said. ‘I want to establish boundaries with my friends, but I don’t think they will understand. What can I do?’ And we answer right on there.”

Fisher says exposing kids to signs of domestic violence can change their lives.

“It is so incredibly important to teach kids about domestic violence because you don’t know how many adults come into this shelter or that come to different agencies that say, ‘I never had any of this information,’” Fisher said. “They often say, ‘If I would’ve known my relationship was abusive, or I’d known the component of the power and control wheel, maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation.’”

A mother we spoke to explained to us how the shelter helped her and her children. We did not share her name for her safety.

“It was a really difficult decision, but I came with my kids, and when I entered, I saw there were so many possibilities where my kids could be very happy,” the woman said in Spanish translated to English.

She says the shelter saved her and her children.

“Everything has been for the better, a change for the better,” the woman said. “Thank God.”

Anyone seeking assistance can reach the shelter’s 24-hour confidential crisis hotline at 239-775-1101

If your child has witnessed an abusive relationship, Fisher wants to help.

“If we don’t integrate prevention into their lives, then, this can be something that they can constantly deal with without knowing how to navigate through it,” Fisher said.

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Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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