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Window of Opportunity

Denton County Friends of the Family adds mentoring program for domestic abuse survivors

Seven years ago, Rachelle Pinkerton’s life hit bottom as she dealt with domestic violence, police and the Department of Child Protective Services.

Rachelle had to prove she was a fit parent to keep her now 10-year-old daughter while also seeking a safe place to stay.

CPS prompted her to seek help with Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF), a nonprofit agency that provides physical and emotional assistance to victims of domestic abuse as well as counseling for batterers.

Today, Rachelle serves as a mentor to other abuse survivors who are forced to seek assistance or risk losing their children.

“I work with clients with CPS cases,” she said. “It is a very resistant stage. They’re being told they need help.”

Victims who have left abusive circumstances on their own may have already accepted that they need help, she said. Once outside agencies are involved in a case, the opportunity to choose this help disappears.

Having navigated the system, Rachelle shares her experiences.

“Second to losing my life is losing my child,” she said. This fear adds another layer of concern to abuse victims, one she understands well.

“They are me. I am them. We are the same.”

The new mentor program sets DCFOF apart from similar agencies. Rachelle spends about 10 hours each week with clients. She tells them “there’s hope and that they are not alone. That was the hardest part, feeling so alone.”

She also speaks to law enforcement officers, social workers and others who work in domestic abuse cases. Rachelle describes how victims feel and what assistance they need. Together, they hope to develop a system for police officers to assess whether someone is in immediate danger and whether there is a “window of opportunity” for victims to escape.

Rachelle, who stayed in the agency’s shelter, recalled significant emotional and physical stages of recovery–her first apartment, a laundry basket filled with small gifts from a donor and learning about the importance of self-care.

Though she continues to deal with emotional triggers, through counseling and self-care, Rachelle and her daughter have moved on, creating new lives for themselves.

“I’m very fortunate to take something so terrible and awful and turn it into something great.”