Life has taken some rocky turns for Barbara Ross — a bad marriage (two, actually), poor health, and bouts of depression over the years.
But she’s determined not to let struggle define her. Instead, she’s creating a safe space for women (and men) to talk about abuse and find strength and comfort by turning to each other.
“You’d be surprised at the women from all walks of life that are carrying these stories around, these burdens around,” says Barbara, a resident of Milledgeville, GA. “We’re providing a safe space for them to speak out, share their stories, and take their power back.”
In 2015, Barbara approached the Milledgeville Housing Authority and asked for a room to hold a meeting for women struggling in abusive relationships. So began “Women Empowering Women,” and three years later, about 35 women regularly gather on the third Friday of each month in a room provided by the housing authority. Several men also attend, and Barbara estimates that more than 100 people have participated in the monthly meetings over the years.
Barbara provides a personal touch, warming the room with low-cost decorations and selecting gifts for new members. And every person leaves with Barbara’s phone number, just in case.
Meetings have been held specifically for teenagers, and Barbara hopes to come up with a new name for the group that reflects the age and gender diversity of those who attend. The point of her work, she says, is to help people change their lives.
“To see other women come out and free themselves to be safe is inspiring to me,” Barbara says. “Some of them are literally saving their lives. That’s rewarding.”
About Circle & Shield
Cingo means to surround and secure — to protect. That’s what we do. And we have a lot of respect for those who take it upon themselves to make protection a part of what they do, too. That’s why we’ve launched Circle & Shield, our award to a member of the community who helps make the world a better place, a safer place.