Advocate lends voice to abuse victims in Hohenfels
HOHENFELS, Germany — Despite the dozens of professional performances under her belt since earning a bachelor’s degree in the arts, Astrid Boswell’s music career never really took off.
So instead, for the past four years, the classically trained singer has used her voice to speak out for victims of abuse and for the prevention of domestic violence.
She works in Hohenfels’ Relocation and Family Advocacy programs, and members of the tight-knit community in Hohenfels sing her praises.
“I think this job is really her calling,” said Heidi Fedak, marketing account executive with Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Hohenfels. “She’s so dedicated.”
Boswell doesn’t seem to have any regrets about trading the opera stage for a desk in the Army Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program.
“Victim advocacy is where my heart is,” she said. “My job is to be the voice for abused families and provide them with the resources they need.”
Boswell, a German, has taken assistance beyond the typical resources of military police and social work services.
She has contacted local German shelters for abused women, because spouses may not feel safe staying at a hotel where the abusers can easily locate them.
She also coordinates with a German police officer specially trained in domestic violence so that she and the military police are aware of domestic disturbances occurring in family housing off the installation.
The job as victim advocate requires patience, Boswell said, since more often than not abused spouses will return to their abusive partners.
“I always tell them that I’m still available to them, even if they have returned to the abusive situation,” Boswell said.
“I don’t want them to feel too ashamed to call me if they have gone back to that situation. Getting out of an abusive relationship is a very long process.”
Boswell said it’s hard to simply turn off her role as victim advocate at the end of the work day, but she is able to balance it out with her work for the newcomers’ orientation.
That weeklong program offers newly arrived family members the chance to learn the ropes of living in Germany.
“This gives family members a strong start in Germany,” Boswell said. “ [Attendees] really have a blast with the orientation, and I love being able to re-experience my home country through their eyes.”
The orientation includes tours of on-post facilities and services and wraps up with two days of off-post tours and shopping trips. Spouses learn everything from how to use the train or bus to using German telephones, Boswell said.
“I lived in Germany before with my family, so this isn’t my first time living here,” Fedak said. “But I still learned things by taking her orientation. It’s more than just a class. She keeps in touch with everyone who has gone through the orientation.”
Boswell has become a mobile information booth for the community.
“Any question you may have, Astrid either has the answer or can find it for you,” Fedak said.
“She is very accessible for anything you may need,” said Shari Wright, quality assurance specialist with Ammunition Surveillance at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels. “She really brings the community together.”
Boswell plays down her own accomplishments.
“There are so many wonderful people in this community,” she said. “I don’t think any one person belongs in the spotlight; we all contribute.”
But others think that Boswell, who leaves Germany on Nov. 1 when her husband retires from the Army, belongs front and center in that spotlight.
“She does so many things that go beyond the scope of her duties,” Fedak said. “She may be happy that her husband is retiring [to Florida], but none of us are.
“No one can fill her shoes.”