‘Doorways’ to help in the Arlington Community

Owen McArdle, Sentry Reporter

24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline: 703-237-0881

High schoolers across the country, concerned about the growing issues of sexual assault and dating abuse, have made clear their calls for change by leading walkouts, forming clubs and hanging posters in school bathrooms. Assisting in this area is Doorways, a local organization that supports and educates members of our community on these topics.

Whether it is providing housing for victims of domestic abuse, counseling for survivors of sexual assault or seminars for teens on how to build healthy relationships, Doorways is there. A wide range of programs and a well rounded staff supplies the organization with the tools necessary to respond to an incredible amount of scenarios, taking care to provide the best environment for each specific victim.

A key part of this support system is the housing program, a network of safe homes for victims of abusive relationships. Despite the problems posed by the pandemic, Doorways was able to rework this program to their advantage.

Last year we served more households in our domestic and sexual violence program than any year in our history, and that’s a powerful thing. Because of COVID, our safehouse did not allow for proper social distancing, so we utilized hotels to shelter our clients. We operated at above 120%, even up to 140% capacity,” Linley Beckbridge, Director of Communications and Advocacy at Doorways, said.

The safehouse and safe apartments, dubbed ‘scattered site shelters,’ are just one brick in the path Doorways’ helps to build for families and survivors to a healthy and stable condition.

Doorways has age specific counseling, a hospital accompanyment program to aid survivors of sexual assault while at the hospital and court advocates to support victims should they need assistance in legal matters. 

“All of our clients, adults and children, have an assigned person who is there to support them and help them navigate all of Doorways’ programs and services as well as other resources in the community. If they need low cost healthcare we can connect them with Arlington free clinic; if they need help with food we can connect them with AFAC, etc,” Beckbridge said.

Doorways housing and counseling programs have an enormous impact on adults and teenagers  in our county. Preventative education is another key area where Doorways shines for the youth population.

Speaking with Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention Specialist Scotney Young provided insight to how Doorways makes a direct impact in schools across Arlington.

A big part of that is through education. I do a lot of educational programming in the community to help young people develop the skills that they need to have healthy relationships,” Young said.

According to Young, a key problem in Virginia is the disparity in education that high schoolers receive when it comes to sexual assault and dating abuse. Although Arlington’s student population has been keen on addressing these topics, some schools simply are not.

“The issue is not all schools are open to it, and so I do work to find other places where I can communicate with young people. I tweak the topics a little bit, so if a school or an organization does not want me to talk about dating abuse, I can talk about friendship, because even our friendships should be healthy,” Young said.

The idea of healthy relationships is central to Doorways’ preventative program. It is also invaluable in high school, where students are beginning to mature and explore socially.

When we talk about relationships and dating, there’s always a forbidden topic of sex and sexuality. Sometimes people do not want to address those topics at all, but that really does a disservice to all of our youth. That leaves them more vulnerable to abusive or unhealthy relationships,” Young said.

Despite the challenge of uncomfortable subjects and hesitant administrations, Doorways has continued to aid the movement for sexualt assault awareness, speaking at the recent walkout and tabling at community events. Arlington’s youth also has significant power in fighting these issues, power that Doorways stresses they may not always realize.

“I think that kids don’t always know the power that they have, especially for high schoolers in particular, there are so many ways that you could help. Everything from conducting donation drives to doing a fundraiser. Clubs and teams in particular can be an awesome vehicle for doing community service projects like donation drives. You can also host a member of the doorways team to speak with your class or group,” Beckbridge said.

Sexual assault and domestic violence are sensitive and serious topics. Doorways offers a safe place to talk about these issues, any time, any day, any place.

“If there is someone reading this who needs support, please reach out to us. We’re here for you too. If someone is experiencing dating violence or perhaps has survived sexual assault or simply wats to ask questions about their relationship, we are a safe place for those kinds of questions. Our hotline number is 703-237-0881 and that will connect you to an advocate anytime, any day, holidays, truly any time, it’s operational,” Beckbridge said.

Dating abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault are real problems with real consequences, and Doorways is not only a safety net for victims, but also a guiding hand for young people in our community.

We really are a very comprehensive organization and we care a lot and we help a lot of people. I’m really glad to be a part of this organization and we’re there for the community,” Young said.