An Introduction to W.O.M.E.N.,SV

Domestic Violence: It happens even in our neighborhood

Most people think that domestic violence doesn’t happen in areas like ours. Or if it does, then women should have the means to handle it on their own.

But domestic violence cuts across all socioeconomic levels, professions, cultures, ages, neighborhoods. And when there are substantial assets involved, the abusive partner often has control over them, even if the wife has her own career.

Men can be victims of domestic violence too. And they suffer the added humiliation of having their identity as a man rocked to its foundation. But most victims of domestic violence are female. With 1 in 4 women becoming a victim of abuse during her lifetime, chances are very high that you either know someone or are someone whose life has been impacted by domestic violence.

In the past year, in the more affluent areas of Santa Clara County, there have been 13 domestic-violence-related deaths—about one a month.

In Los Gatos, the most frequently reported crime is domestic violence.

Even here in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, 11 per cent of phone calls coming into the Los Altos Police Station are domestic violence related–and those are only the women who call.

That call can start a whole chain of events in motion that carries its own set of risks. Her abuser could be a prominent member of the community with a large circle of friends, supporters, colleagues. Up against this kind of power, money, and influence, she has a lot to lose by speaking up or by trying to break free: her home, her safety, custody of her children, her fair share of the assets, her neighborhood, friends, children’s school district, her social standing, her current lifestyle, her dream of a privileged and comfortable life.

In a neighborhood like ours, the most common form of domestic violence is emotional abuse. More subtle than physical violence, the effects can be just as devastating, and the scars a woman suffers from it can last a lifetime. Adding a highly contentious divorce to this kind of trauma means she will need the support of more than one person – or even one lawyer – to leave safely and fairly, and in order to prepare for the legal, financial, and emotional battle ahead of her. She will need a team of support around her. Her abuser will certainly have a team around him.

That is why over thirty experts in the field of domestic violence have offered their support of LACF’s newest program, Women-of-Means Escape Network, Silicon Valley (W.O.M.E.N., SV), a resource center that addresses the needs of women in middle-to-upper income areas who are experiencing domestic violence.

These experts include:
Chair of Santa Clara County’s Domestic Violence Council and Assistant District Attorney (newly retired) of San Jose, Rolanda Pierre-Dixon, Esq.
Domestic Violence Expert Witness Richard Ferry, M.S., LMFT
Palo Alto University Professor and Past President of Santa Clara County Psychological Association, Paul Marcille, Ph.D.
Stanford OB-GYN Harise Stein, M.D.
Police Officer and former detective Susan Anderson of Los Altos
Executive Director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Kathleen Krenek
Director of YWCA’s Domestic Violence Support Network Program, Adriana Caldera, M.P.A.
Los Altos therapist Martha Cravens, Ph.D.
Los Altos educational consultant, Miriam Bodin, MA

Their guidance has helped shape the vision and mission of W.O.M.E.N., SV:
To support and empower all women in their struggle to free themselves from domestic violence
To address the unique challenges of women with affluent partners by building a network of resources.

Resources and support include:
A safe, confidential phone line and email address for women to reach out for help
A website with an online directory of services–legal, financial, counseling, personal safety and relocation, educational, vocational, educational–and reference materials on domestic violence in all its forms.
Support and guidance at every stage of the process, from identifying red flags and signs of abuse, through assembling a team and moving through divorce, and on to recovery and starting a new life

Domestic violence is no longer a “private matter”, as San Francisco’s Sheriff Mirkarimi tried to claim. It is a public health issue, a human rights issue. For it is every woman’s right to the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of her home, her body, her private life. And this same right also applies to her children.

Sometimes it takes a village not just to raise a child, but to get a divorce, especially if it’s from a partner with power, money, and influence. By building collaborative relationships with skilled and dedicated professionals, W.O.M.E.N., SV serves women and children in our area whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence. W.O.M.E.N., SV is committed to helping women of means find the means to break free from abuse and go on to build healthier lives for themselves, their children, and ultimately our community.

Do you have questions, comments, suggestions? Send them to domestic violence consultant Ruth Patrick, MA, Program Director of W.O.M.E.N., SV at womensv@losaltoscf.org , or call 650-996-2200.

Ruth is also available for speaking engagements at local service organizations, schools, corporations, health care centers, etc.

The more we know, the more we can do to end domestic violence.