By Philip Case
As a victim of domestic violence, Sherry Harrod says the best way she helps others is through her volunteer work at the Sunshine Center and its safe house, where she serves as board secretary.
“My experience is what gave me the passion to help and the reason I do it,” she said. “I think it’s important people know that.”
Like the stories of many of those she serves, Harrod said she kept leaving and going back after promises to do better, try harder and change. None of those things happened and, finally, when she felt her life was in imminent danger, she left the abusive situation for good.
The safe house is usually filled with women and children who were caught in domestic situations from which they needed to escape.
“Having been there,” she said, “I know how hard it is to leave and how brave these women are to do it.”
Personnel at the safe house conduct a “lethality interview” that does exactly what its name implies.
“We determine the severity of the threat and, if we don’t have room in the safe house, then we find some other place for the woman and her children — if she has any — to go,” Harrod said.
Through Jill Robinson, a former Franklin County magistrate, Harrod connected with Family Abuse Services and started her volunteer work as a member of the board and on a committee whose members took care of infrastructure problems at the house, which has 21 beds.
“We want it to be clean, presentable and welcoming,” Harrod said.
Harrod served as chairman of the board for years before she became secretary. Attorney Jason Hart is chairman now.
Harrod is retired from the Legislative Research Commission and holds a part-time position as an executive assistant with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers in Frankfort.
“Domestic violence knows no barriers,” she said. “It crosses all races, genders, economic status and age. Men can be victims, too, as can the elderly. Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “People tend to keep it a secret often from fear because the abuser may have threatened that, if they tell someone or seek help, they will injure others in the family, kill or injure pets or other things. You know it’s really bad when they leave.”
Funding for the safe house comes from private donations, city and county governments and events like the popular Capital City Blues Festival, held each summer at the Ward Oates Amphitheater.
Harrod said volunteers are needed to staff the hotline that’s available after the Sunshine Center closes each day and on the weekends.
“There’s a designated number and phone that’s rotated to the volunteers. They (the volunteers) don’t have to use their own number or phone,” Harrod said. “The hope is to get the victim to a safe place quickly.
“Sometimes the window of escape is narrow, perhaps just even a few minutes while the abuser is away. We encourage them to get in the car and go — if they can — or we call a taxi or the police.”
The daytime number for the Sunshine Center is 502-875-3495 and the hotline is 502-229-9762. To find out more, visit thesunshinecenter.org.
“My passion is to connect, listen, encourage,” Harrod said, “and through my own experience show you can emerge, have a good life and job.”