The smell of sizzling bacon wafted through the richly-hued halls of the Center for Women and Families on a recent weekday morning, meshing with the lilting giggle of a child playing peek-a-boo nearby.
The comforting sounds and sights – and aromas – belied the stark reality of what occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year behind the walls of the nonprofit organization.
The Center, as it’s known,, has been helping victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and economic hardship since 1912. Today, it operates more than six regional office locations and provides emergency shelter, transitional housing and long-term housing options to 14 Kentuckiana counties.
“I’ve known women who’ve lived here and died,” said President/CEO Denise Vazquez Troutman, her voice breaking. “I’ve known women who’ve lived here and thrived.”
The demanding work – or “heart work,” as Troutman calls it – is rewarding, albeit sobering. In the four years since she took on the leadership role, Troutman has comforted victims of unimaginable cruelty and watched as the number of those seeking services continue to rise, particularly as the economy has weakened.
She’s spent time on her hands and knees playing with children who have to be cajoled to use The Center’s playground because they’d gotten used to playing inside their bedroom closets. One little boy, Troutman recalled, even described his “exit strategy” and how he used to slip inside a pillowcase as if it were a flimsy sleeping bag, hiding deep inside of his closet, but could then slide out of the case, put on his shoes and use the pillow covering as a bag he’d fill with his toys and hoist over his back – if and when home became too dangerous and he had to flee on his own.
In turn, Troutman has watched grown women enter The Center after being assaulted, unable to bear the intrusiveness of eye contact, only to emerge stronger, and empowered, shoulders back, chest forward, eyes up, after experiencing the figurative and literal circle of support The Center offers to people of all genders, including, yes, the occasional man who seeks assistance after experiencing intimate partner abuse and/or sexual violence.
Troutman has never been sexually or physically assaulted or abused herself. In fact, she grew up in an affluent home with supportive, nurturing parents and has enjoyed the same sort of stability and strength in her marriage to Dr. Adewale Troutman, who left his role as Louisville’s public health director last month for a position with the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. Denise Troutman will follow her husband in March.
“I’m leaving a piece of my heart here,” she said. “I have always been one that is looking to give back and trying to leave the world a better place. It seems like a huge, daunting task, but I’ve done it in my little way, and I have 92 people and a host of volunteers who share that vision of making this a better place for women and children and some men.”
The brightly-colored walls; aromatic meals that include whole grains, salad and fresh vegetables and “food that’s good for you and good for your soul”; the numerous inspirational quotes hanging all around The Center; the artwork created, mostly, by past and present clients – all of this fit into Troutman’s vision of a facility that would offer more than shelter to survivors as they heal and rebuild their lives. She hoped to provide a home – whether clients actually sleep there or not – and to make it welcoming to all people of all backgrounds, because, Troutman now knows and understands, neither intimate partner abuse nor sexual violence discriminates. “If you can think of your ZIP code, it’s happening there. If you think of your church, it’s happening there. You cannot be fearful of someone you love,” she said.
“As you can see,” Troutman continued, “our clients are courageous. They’re giving voice to those who have been silenced while rebuilding their lives. That … is what The Center is about.”
The Center for Women and Families helps victims of intimate partner abuse or sexual violence to become survivors through supportive services, community education and cooperative partnerships that foster hope, promote self-sufficiency and rebuild lives.
How Can You Help?
- Make an online donation to The Center for Women and Families at www.thecenteronline.org.
- Donate new and gently-used items in the name of The Center to your nearest Goodwill location.
- Coordinate an Adopt-a-Room drive by calling (502) 581-7207.
- Volunteer at The Center by calling (502) 581-7268
- See for yourself and schedule a visit to The Center by calling (502) 581-7211
- Attend the 24th annual Celebration of Service & Survival on Feb. 23.
- NOTE: The Center does not take trial-size products and clothing donations should be given to your nearby Goodwill.
Face the Facts
- 1 in 3 women will be the victim of domestic violence.
- Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
The Center’s, 24 Hour Toll Free Crisis Line
Category: Cover Stories
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.