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Not surviving alone - State domestic violence research to be presented in Bremerton

She couldn’t go grocery shopping alone. She couldn’t make new friends and the ones she had, she lost touch with. He was always by her side.

“My blinders were on. I wanted the perfect guy. There were signs and it progressively got worse,” said Jane, not her real name.

Jane was with the man for six years. They met at a store in town and got to talking. And then they were dating and living together. Everything was fine until the “honeymoon period” ended halfway through the relationship, she said. It became an unspoken rule that she was to work and provide the income for them while he sat at home and watched television. He yelled at her son for sitting incorrectly on a chair or for taking too long to take out the recycle bin. He hit her.

The pattern of control and violence is not uncommon.

Fortunately, Jane found the strength to leave, and received help rebuilding her life with help from the YWCA of Kitsap County. She and her son stayed at the YWCA ALIVE Shelter for four-and-a-half months, and are now living in transitional housing on their own.

“If it wasn’t for them, I would probably still be in the same situation,” she said.

Though Jane escaped her situation, separating from abusive relationships has often enough cost lives. And sometimes ironically, it is when victims attempt to leave an abuser that the violence gets worse.

“Calling 911 is a good option but that might escalate the violence,” said

Ankita Patel, fatality review specialist with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

 

The Kitsap County Domestic Violence Task Force will present the 2010 Fatality Review: Up to Us, which includes more than a decade worth of research on state domestic violence cases at the Jackson Park Community Center in Bremerton April 19. The report is the sixth and final installment from the state coalition that includes analysis on reported cases and where improvements can be made.

A few of the report’s goals are to provide awareness on domestic violence and to address how services for victims can improve, Patel said.

One finding in the report was that 31 percent of 84 cases reviewed showed

that homicide abuse victims were under the age of 21 when they started dating the abuser, Patel said, adding that there needs to be more resources for teenagers including in the schools, to inform them on dating violence.

Informing teenagers — and adult abuse victims alike — doesn’t necessarily mean telling them to leave the relationship.

“Our take is that we don’t say that victims should leave relationships,” Patel said. “They need to make the best decision for themselves.”

And that is what Jane did. On the day in September when she and her son left her boyfriend, she had been crying all day. Her boyfriend stepped out of the house briefly and she knew she only had a few minutes to figure out a plan. Though her son had never said anything to her out loud, she knew how he felt.

“He was looking at me with his eyes saying, ‘Please do something,’” Jane said. “I knew it was time to leave.”

 

With no friends or close family, Jane attempted to do a quick Internet search for a shelter. One of the first results on the page listed the YWCA ALIVE Shelter and she immediately called. A woman on the other end of the line answered and Jane began explaining her situation. But just as she started, her boyfriend returned and she quickly hung up the phone. She sat on the couch and pretended like everything was normal. Later that same day when he left the house a second time, she called back and the same woman told her to pack her bags and leave immediately and gave her the address for the shelter.

“It was scary to be on my own even though the relationship was abusive,” Jane said.

Jane didn’t know what to expect at the shelter — she didn’t even know there were such services in Kitsap. The location of the shelter is not disclosed to the public for security reasons. She and her son had a bedroom to themselves. Their first night they held each other and cried as she promised to never put them in a situation like that again.

Jane never reported the man, fearing his reaction. And she never saw him again after leaving in September. Jackie Brown, the shelter director, said that about half of victims at the shelter press charges against their abusers.

“Some are so afraid they just want it to go away,” Brown said, on the reason why some may not report anything.

The YWCA of Kitsap County shelter was founded 1978 and provides temporary housing for women and their children affected by domestic violence.

Linda Joyce, executive director, said it serves about 150 families yearly, adding that 85 percent of the families seeking services from the YWCA are of low income. The YWCA also has other programs aside from the temporary shelter including legal advocacy and children’s camps.

Most importantly, the services of organizations like the YWCA help women get used to being single. For Jane, she has adjusted to her new life.

“I feel really happy and excited,” Jane said. She is currently taking classes at Olympic College to become a chemical dependency counselor. She has never battled addiction although feels that she will be able to reach out and help others similar to the way workers at the YWCA have done for her.

“She’s one of those people who has hit the ground running,” said Christina Vala, ALIVE shelter housing advocate, adding that she has seen the self-esteem in Jane and her son grow since September.

Even though Jane and her son are no longer at the shelter, Vala continues to meet with Jane on a weekly basis to catch up and set weekly goals. A visit to her house a few weeks ago even had Vala knocking down a beehive.

And although there had been a concern of running into her ex-boyfriend somewhere in town, she said the fear decreases as the days go by.

“I know I have that backup and I’m not alone,” she said.

 

Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review

Presentation is free and open to the public

6 p.m., Tuesday, April 19

Jackson Park Community Center

90 Olding Road, Bremerton

(360) 373-5293

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