For every visitor, Hope’s Door New Beginning Center brings to life the spirit of the song “Be our guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” (Be our guest. Be our guest. Put our service to the test). It’s CEO Jim Malatich’s underlying philosophy for the Plano-based nonprofit, and why Hope’s Door New Beginning Center invests time in creating a trauma-informed care environment for its clients.
Jim believes an environment can transform the way victims think and set the stage for their recovery. “I don’t want to re-traumatize anyone walking in,” he says. Instead, he hopes to guide them to a world of warmth, away from trauma and medical treatment.
Through colorful, happy surroundings, soothing sounds and scents, and simple, empathetic gestures, “you see somebody cares,” Jim says.
Hope’s Door New Beginning Center (HDNBC) is a nonprofit that provides preventive services and intervention for anyone touched by family and intimate partner violence. For victims, it provides counseling, legal assistance, shelter or housing if needed and food and clothing through a retail store. For the batterer, there is the Batterer Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) that directly addresses the issue at hand.
“We try to provide as many of the basic tools you’re going to need to feel safe in your community,” Jim says.
Before Hope’s Door New Beginning Center, Jim worked at the Samaritan Inn, a homeless program, and had also served as director of adult public mental health in Travis County. Public service was something he always cared about; it had guided him throughout his career, taking him in many directions. His goal was to contribute more to his own community: Plano.
So, when the opportunity to join Hope’s Door presented itself two and a half years ago, he gladly took it, with a clear vision to do more in the ways he believed he could.
Often with domestic violence cases, a lot occurs behind the scene and beyond the public’s eye – and as a result, it remains deeply misunderstood. There’s a common misconception that if the victim leaves the abuser, the problem disappears, too. “But the scariest part for a lot of people is after they leave,” Jim explains. “If you pack up your problems, they’ll come right with you.”
When the victim lives with the batterer, there is predictability (and to some extent, comfort) in knowing his or her whereabouts. It’s when the victim leaves that it’s hard to anticipate what will happen. According to Jim, an overwhelming number of deaths occur after the victim leaves the partner. With the recent Plano shooting that killed eight and wounded one, the couple had separated. The killer, Spencer Hight, showed up at the home of his ex-wife, Meredith Hight, while she had friends over for a cookout. It was the first time she had invited people over since their separation.
Most people’s initial reaction was shock, but Jim’s was a deep sorrow for the depth of the tragedy. Everyone wanted to know: Could it have been prevented?
According to HDNBC, prevention in domestic violence focuses on looking for signs of minor events in a relationship that have the potential of escalating into violence. It’s finding yourself having to sacrifice, surrender or put aside your own values and beliefs to salvage a relationship – and it can start with just one value or belief, Jim says.
In relationships, the battering doesn’t start immediately, but rather, control issues can emerge when the relationship gets deeper emotionally. “You say this isn’t right, you blow it off, but there’s another level,” Jim says.
Spencer Hight had lost his job in 2015, had a drinking problem and a fascination with guns. These factors can exacerbate domestic violence, but are completely absent in some instances, according to Jim. “It’s just that internally you hit a tipping point, and you get caught moving in a direction, in a role, that you’re obsessed in.”
It turns out Spencer had been violent with Meredith at least two times during their marriage, but she hadn’t revealed that to anyone until after she had filed for divorce. “She went underground with what was happening and decided to leave, but if they’re going to kill you, there’s nothing that’s going to get in their way,” Jim says.
The scariest part
for a lot of people
is after they leave.
It’s an all-consuming obsession – over the relationship and over the idea of controlling a person. If two people break up, and one of them already has an obsessive nature of thinking, it’s not out of the ordinary that the obsession persists if that person hasn’t moved on, Jim explains.
It can get worse, until the individual surrenders all sense of rationality. If the individual doesn’t talk to anyone, like Spencer Hight, or exhibit signs, no one can know the potential of what he’ll do. Only he knew.
“We’re lucky that for the most part, people talk about it, or do things that are signs,” Jim says.
In this case, Jim doesn’t think the Plano shooting could have been prevented, but he strongly urges more people to seek help and better understand signs of victimization and violence.
“The wish would be in hindsight that even if you’re coming out of the relationship and you’ve done it all on your own, to still go and seek advice from people who work here or any program, so that if certain things start to occur, you’re aware of what those signs might mean, for your own safety,” he says.
In domestic violence, there’s a lot to piece together, but the cause of it is undeniable: the one who’s doing the battering. “We’re big believers that if we’re really going to go after this problem, we have to deal with the people who are causing the problem,” Jim says.
Hope’s Door’s New Beginning Center believes in a better future, and has in place the Batterer Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), a psychoeducational program that typically lasts 26 to 32 weeks. Batterers pay for each class, and come in every week, learning to change their behavior. They implement the changes they learn into their lives, until those changes gradually turn into habits, and start to become a part of who they are.
“It’s a transformation and it takes time,” Jim says, but he’s committed, and will continue to play his role. The hope is that the vicious cycle of victimization will break, through a community of people who care and push toward change, for as long as it is needed, for as long as it takes to feel safe again.
For those seeking help, Hope’s Door New Beginning Center has a Crisis Line: 972-422-SAFE (7233)
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Show your support by:
– wearing purple
– volunteering as an individual or as part of a group at a shelter, in the office or in one of the HDNBC resale stores
– donating gently used men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, home décor, furniture to the resale stores (which directly benefits the clients)
– participating in an event (which can be found on the HDNBC website)
– keeping up with HDNBC on social media
– making a financial contribution (which can be found on the HDNBC website)