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CCCC Opens Thrift Store Saturday to Fund Programs for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

The Crisis Center of Comal County is counting on its trendy new thrift store to raise desperately needed funds for its 72-bed shelter, which provides critical services to women and children impacted by domestic and sexual-assault violence. Community Relations Manager Paula Bouloubasis, left, decorated the shop with the help of a now-defunct upscale Gruene boutique that donated a $3,000 chandelier. Bill Courtenay, right, who also serves as a victim's advocate in court, volunteers to work at the store on a regular basis.

Gently used designer bags, boutique clothing, brand new evening wear and high-end home goods go on sale from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the grand opening of The Crisis Center of Comal County’s Comal Thrift Shoppe, 3702 S. Interstate 35, New Braunfels (Rueckle Road exit).

The one-day event features 50% off purple tags, $5 fill-a-bags, giveaways, refreshments and a grand prize, all designed to showcase the high-end donations CCCC receives from the community.

Thrift store manager Roxanne Cevallos said she sells boutique brands at thrift store prices and needs volunteers to work new shifts. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

CCCC’s Community Relations Manager Paula Bouloubasis said the thrift store is a just-in-time blessing for the 72-bed shelter, which provides critical services to women and children impacted by domestic and sexual assault violence.

Funding from a five-year state grant will decrease by 15% during fiscal year 2022. CCCC desperately needs to make up the difference as it expands its mission and outreach.

Last year, with partial support from The McKenna and Kronkosky foundations, CCCC opened its doors for the first time to homeless women and children. To help families struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center added a teacher and bolstered childcare for mothers desperately trying to find jobs.

“We had to become very creative about how to grow our services,” said CCCC Program Director Tamara Acosta. “The thrift shop will support our growth while being able to cover a lot of the costs that won’t be covered through grant funding anymore.”

Boulousbasis decorated the CCCC’s new thrift store with a glittering $3,000 chandelier donated by the owner of an upscale Gruene boutique that closed. She added spacious changing rooms with trendy decor designed to appeal to bargain shoppers of all income levels.

All items for sale were donated by the public. Women and children at the shelter get to pick what they want before Cevallos decides what to offer at the store.

It’s a glamorous face on an ugly problem few like to talk about.

“People always say they want to help, but they only want to see the pretty,” Acosta said. “They don’t want to deal with the grime, the chaos, the crying, the constant screaming…No one wants to think about a woman getting beaten every single day.”

Women who walk through CCCC’s doors suffer from serious trauma that can spiral into even more problematic mental-health disorders like bipolar illness or schizophrenia. Their children are so overwhelmed by circumstances that even the shelter’s food pantry is outside their paradigm. Many of them aren’t used to eating three meals a day or doing normal things like going to a movie.

“It’s all about the family,” Acosta said. “What we are doing is trying to help them escape the reality that they’ve lived in. For us to be able to take that client and say there’s nothing wrong with you, and we’re going to get you back on track…and get you out of survival mode and repair the relationship with your children…is a really holistic approach,” Acosta said.

“Most domestic violence shelters all stand on that same premise that it’s a holistic approach and needs to be treated family by family,” she said. There is no cookie-cutter approach to helping victims of domestic and family violence.

Many of the 1,500 clients CCCC served last year had nowhere else to turn in the community for support, including women who were raped, strangled or beaten and needed forensic documentation of their injuries in hospital emergency rooms.

The center pays for a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) to work with them. Although the state helps reimburse CCCC for rape exams, it does not cover exams for women who are strangled. Proving strangulation isn’t as straightforward as it might sound, and batterers who strangle are much more likely to escalate and engage in other extreme acts of violence.

Without proper evidence abusers can’t be prosecuted, a problem not unfamiliar to many other CCCC clients who are trying to obtain protective orders or escape their abusers through the family court system. Women need child support and alimony to get back on their feet, but lawyers aren’t cheap and grants don’t pay for them.

This is where the new thrift store comes in.

Acosta said one of her clients, an undocumented woman, was strangled by her partner 1 1/2 years ago. Due to COVID-19 police did not arrest him and the woman had to obtain a protective order through the Comal County District Attorney’s Office.

“We’re trying to help her with immigration to get her paperwork together to stay here and work, to make a life here for her and her son,” she said. “He was just indicted for impeding the circulation of breath and there will be charges pressed against him. He violated his protective order numerous times. Now if they charge him, he’s going away for good. These are the things we get excited about. It’s justice. It’s happening.”

CCCC is adamant about helping the children of victimized women obtain counseling, too.

It’s not uncommon for a woman’s abuser to weaponize her children against her. Children inadvertently become complicit in the abuse and can’t tell which parent is telling the truth.

“We understand that children who are not successful in breaking the cycle of abuse either become the abuser or will be abused in the future because that is what they know,” Acosta said. “A lot of that is due to a limitation in their experiences. We’re trying to create more holistic environment, to include children and how they feel, and bring them back into a life experience where they can enjoy being a child.”

Sixty-five percent of the chronically homeless women and children CCCC cares for present as victims of past domestic and sexual violence, she said. This number holds true across the state and also causes the CCCC to take a dim view of Gov. Greg Abbott’s claim he can reduce the demand for abortion by eliminating rape.

Rape is something that happens any time a woman of any age is forced to comply with sex at a cost, whether it is to avoid being hurt, yelled at, or even to use the family vehicle Acosta said. It also has horrific consequences for the children she works with, many of whom have been violated by family members as well as strangers and acquaintances.

She hopes the thrift store will raise enough money to enable the CCCC to treat all victims of sexual and domestic violence with care and respect so they resolve trauma and are successfully able to reengage in the neighborhoods where they live.

“The success of the program hinges on cooperation and the direct involvement of the community,” she said.

About Crisis Center of Comal County

CCCC provides services to women, children and men of all ages. These services include a 24-hour crisis line, shelter, counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, assistance in filing for child support, case management, victim’s advocacy, transportation, information/referral and community education/prevention.

To learn more about CCCC, click here. All clothing and other small-item donations should be dropped off at the shelter, not the thrift store.

CCCC is located at 1547 E. Common St., New Braunfels. Walk-ins are welcome. No appointment is necessary for immediate crisis intervention and advocacy services. The 24-hour crisis hotline is 1-800-434-8013.


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