By Stan Friedman
WESTMINSTER, CO (May 19, 2014) — When Kay Sorvik counsels residents of Covenant Village of Colorado where she is chaplain, sometimes they reveal their experience of suffering domestic violence. For some it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken about it.
“Sometimes there may be a tendency to think this is an issue that younger people deal with, but it is a whole life issue,” says Sorvik. “They may have been abused as spouses or as children. Some suffer verbal abuse as dementia starts to set in for their husband or wife. Sometimes children do the abusing of their aging parents.”
Some are concerned for adult children and friends whom they fear are being abused, Sorvik adds.
Her experience in counseling residents led her to invite Yvonne DeVaughn to present a three-day Advocates for Victims of Abuse (AVA) conference, which began yesterday. “We wanted to educate each other more—residents and staff—on what it looks like and what to do if we have seen it or experienced it.”
During the vespers service last night, DeVaughn, the director of AVA, shared her own story of domestic violence. Sessions include helping participants develop a greater understanding of what victims endure and focusing on a God-centered understanding of abuse, which highlights the innate value of people and also includes a forgiveness model.
On Tuesday, DeVaughn will lead Covenant Village’s all-staff retreat on end-of-life issues and elder abuse. She also has set aside time to meet with residents individually.
The conference is open to both men and women. DeVaughn previously led the conference at Mount Miguel Covenant Village in Spring Valley, California.
“The interactive sessions gave people an opportunity to talk about the issues of abuse—physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and sexual,” DeVaughn says. “I was deeply moved as I realized that for some of the people, the past experiences were still fresh and painful.”
DeVaughn says response to the conference was “overwhelmingly positive.” After the conference, a small group met for weeks to use the “Mending the Soul” curriculum recommended by AVA.
“There was so much enthusiasm from residents who expressed interest in getting this information out to the churches close by and a desire to open the sessions up to the public,” DeVaughn says.
DeVaughn says she hopes to be able to lead the conference at other Covenant retirement communities.