Looking Out For Those Who Are Most Vulnerable With Karen Haring

May 5, 2020

As many individuals are staying home, domestic violence and mental health cases increase. Karen Haring, the founder of Libera, a women and teen empowerment initiative, knows that this is true. Haring spoke on Positively West Virginia podcast about helping women and teens find freedom in their lives. 

Haring graduated from Ohio State University with an education degree and has taught in Ohio and West Virginia public and private schools. She’s served as a volunteer, board member, and staff member with nonprofits since college. 

She has 34 years of experience working with women and teens in both group and mentoring settings and is an expert at listening and helping them identify the lies and barriers in their lives. She’s passionate about helping women and teens tell their stories to listening ears so they can find their purpose, their voice, and their freedom.


What can West Virginia businesses do – right now – to survive this current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic situation we’re all facing today?


As schools have announced an education from home environment and many employers are asking their employees to work from home, the risk of domestic violence, child abuse, and mental health conditions increases. 

“Anxiety is a big issue for adults and students alike. I think most students struggle with anxiety to begin with, and we’ve seen increased anxiety in the people we work with,” explained Haring.

“I’m also a crisis text line counselor, and text and calls have gone up tremendously during this time. We know people are struggling with mental health issues. We know domestic violence has gone up

Here’s an interesting thing, child abuse reports have gone down, and we might think that’s a good thing, but we collaborate some with Shield Task Force of West Virginia, and we’ve been doing some collaborative projects. Robert Peters is the founder of Shield Task Force of West Virginia, and he works with the Zero Abuse Project, and what that means is that kids are not with the people who would typically report abuse. Usually, it’s teachers or concerned adults. Now, they’re stuck at home, possibly with an abusive family member.

Most abusers are people that are in their family or people that they know, and so we felt a real burden to get mental health resources and anxiety tools and help to students who are in abusive situations. Those are the things we’ve been keying in on because those are tremendous needs, and it’s hard to get those resources to them when they’re at home,” said Haring. 

For friends and family, Haring recommends looking out for the following signs that someone is struggling: 

“I think when we see them isolating might be a time when we would start to ask questions and take a little more time to be with them and be present and try to listen.

We wanted a listening revolution to happen in West Virginia because we feel like there’s a lot of teaching and education going on, but when we talk to students, they tell us all the time, ‘I don’t feel heard or seen or understood,’ so taking the time if someone’s isolating.

Something that people may not be aware of is that rage or anger can be a sign that someone is actually struggling with a mental health issue or anxiety. Then, the flip side of that is just a lot of tears or crying. Any of those things could be signs that they’re struggling with anxiety or mental health issues,” explained Haring. 

For business leaders and co-workers, Haring recommends looking for the following signs that your fellow employee may be struggling, 

“I would look for isolation. If someone is becoming more and more isolated, that could be a sign. Also, if they can’t talk or communicate with someone without their significant other present, that could be a sign. If there’s a lot of hovering type behavior, where they can’t do anything independently without the other person there or around or checking their communication, those are big signs,” said Haring. 


The Libera Model stands for:

  • Listen
  • Illuminate
  • Believe 
  • Envision
  • Reach
  • Alright 

Haring explained Libera as, 

“Libera was founded as a grassroots organization here in West Virginia. The model is an acronym for Libera. The “L” stands for listening. We say that we listen empathetically and non-judgmentally to women and girls’ stories. “I” stands for illuminates, shining a light on their stories and helping them figure out what barriers are in their way or even what lies do they believe about themselves. We find that all women and girls Believe lies about themselves, and those lies hold them back whether they’re conscious lies or subconscious lies. We use some tools that some educators might be familiar with, such as the ACE quiz, which is adverse childhood experiences.

“R” stands for reach. Reach is about reaching for resources. This is a huge part of why we started Libera up because, in my previous work, in the nonprofit world, and as an educator, I realized that many women and girls would come to me. I’ve lead groups pretty much my whole life with women and girls, and they would come to me and say I’m having this problem, but they wouldn’t know where to turn. They wouldn’t know what resources were available, or they wouldn’t know how to get connected to the resources. So, we help them reach for resources. We might connect them to a counselor or anxiety tool. We find most teens struggle with anxiety; we might connect them to another nonprofit. We might connect them to physical resources; we don’t give out physical resources, but maybe they need furniture or groceries or their electric bill paid, we help them reach those kinds of resources.

The final part of the model is “Alright.” That is just the idea that once they’ve become more empowered and more about who they really are and living out their potential, they want to bring others along. They want to bring their friends along or their families along as we’ve seen this happen with girls in schools where we lead group. 

That’s our basic model. Our strategy is we train volunteer listeners. These listeners go through the Libera group themselves to understand the model. Then, they go through a one-day listener training where they learn motivational interviewing. They learn how to listen well, they learn what to do in a crisis, they learn mandatory reporting in case abuse or neglect is reported and then they also have to go through a short mental health training,” explained Haring. 

Listen to the full podcast here

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