Miss R has had a broken arm and a broken jaw, and both eyes blackened by beatings, one so badly that her socket had to be braced with a plastic cup.
She’s a survivor of domestic violence and now helps other women along an underground railroad, of sorts, that operates in the D.C. metro area.
In her modest office this week, Miss R sits across from a white board that lists various schedules of Freddi House, a cluster of safe houses for abused mothers and single women.
She does not reveal clients’ names, and I do not ask.
In fact, their names and Miss R’s are inconsequential, as it is the services at Freddi House that underscore the reason for this story as Congress wrangles over funding to help get battered women situated so they no longer have to depend on their abusers.
Freddi House provides more than a welcoming bed; it’s a first step toward leading women down a path of survival and self-sufficiency.
“We try to make them whole again,” said Miss R.
Receiving women involved in the criminal justice system, Freddi House clients are given shelter, food, clothing, social and medical services.
Once there, the women get hygiene kits, are assigned furnished bedrooms and given a frank orientation. On the third day, they work with staff and caseworkers to develop individualized action plans that include job-seeking or education options as well as a list of in-house chores.
The clients also are handed a form that lays out Freddi House rules — old-school rules of the order Grandma used to lay down.
Some of the rules are obvious — no weapons, drugs, alcohol, unsupervised children, unsafe or unclean habits, violent or abusive behavior — and some just make good doggone common sense — out by 8 a.m., in by 10 p.m., and “no visitors.”
The No. 1 Freddi House rule: “This location is Not to be disclosed to the abuser. Violation will mean immediate eviction.”
“We tell them to read it at their leisure and they must sign,” said Miss R. “It’s for their own good.”
Some of the women balk at certain rules, like the one that says no food deliveries.