For many survivors of domestic violence, calling The Cocoon’s 24/7 crisis hotline to speak with an advocate is the first step toward escaping an abusive situation.
Wood County’s comprehensive domestic and sexual violence agency provides emergency shelter and advocacy services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking and sexual harassment, and supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
“We typically say to folks, ‘we’re really your best, first stop, because either we will be able to provide the services that you’re looking for, or we can make the connections to the people in the community who can,’” says Kathy Mull, executive director of The Cocoon.
The Cocoon responds to an average of 6,000 calls and serves more than 700 survivors and their children annually. While the agency is perhaps best known for its emergency shelter, Mull says about 90 percent of its clients live and work in the community.
Services are provided at no cost and include crisis support, safety planning, legal and medical advocacy, financial empowerment and support groups. The Cocoon also shares items such as food, clothing and personal care products with survivors as needed.
Recognizing a need
Prior to The Cocoon’s founding in 2005, there was no domestic violence shelter in Wood County. A grassroots initiative to build a shelter began in 2000, and then the county saw four domestic violence homicides within as many years. “That was really the catalyst to say, ok — we have got to do something, and we need to do it now,” says Mull. “And that’s what allowed us to be able to get our doors open.”
Since its inception, Mull says the shelter has almost always operated at capacity.
The Cocoon serves all survivors, including single men and women, and parents with children. It also has the unique ability to house family pets such as cats and dogs.
“It takes a lot of strength and courage to take that first step to say, ‘I’ve got to leave this situation because it’s not safe for me,’” says Mull. Survivors entering emergency shelter may fear what their partner will do in response, and worry about what the move will mean for their children. Most come with few belongings and have limited access to finances. If they are working, it might not be safe for them to return to their job.
Survivors are usually exhausted, faced with many stressors and decisions to make as they work to rebuild their lives. “Our goal is really to try to make that transition as smooth as possible for them,” says Mull.
The average stay at The Cocoon is 57 days, though the shelter can house clients for up to 90 days. Shelter advocates work closely with survivors during that time to help them set goals. After they transition out of shelter, clients continue to receive support and services for as long as they need from the agency.
Services of site and in the community
Mull says The Cocoon is fortunate to receive strong financial support from the local community in addition to grants through several federal and state programs that make its work possible.
With the assistance of Ohio Capital Budget dollars, the agency renovated a building it purchased to double the capacity of the emergency shelter from 12 to 24 beds in 2017. Space was also created in this new location to provide holistic support for survivors including on-site counseling and group programming.
For fiscal year 2021-2022, the agency received a $200,000 award through the Ohio Capital Budget that will provide seed funding for the third and final phase of this major building renovation project.
Phase III will create dedicated program space for families that are not staying in the shelter, according to Mull. Plans include construction of private advocacy meeting space, a multi-purpose training room, designated reception area and additional security features. “It will allow us to maximize the community-based programming that we can provide for families,” says Mull. The hope is to complete this phase by 2022, and plans are underway to raise additional dollars through a private fundraising campaign.
While staff members are excited about providing more services on site, Mull adds they will always be willing to travel to meet those who lack transportation to the agency in Bowling Green. “We will still continue to provide what we call mobile advocacy, which is meeting people out in the community if they can’t get to us,” says Mull.
To learn more about The Cocoon, visit www.thecocoon.org or call 419-373-1730. If you or someone you know is in need of services, call 419-373-1730, and select option #2 to be connected to an advocate 24/7.