It wasn’t until a neighbor heard this woman crying and shouting that she wanted to kill herself that she got help. No, she didn’t leave her husband. That is not the conclusion to her story. She instead joined a support group at the Santa Clarita Valley Domestic Violence Center.
“She now feels like she can stand up for herself,” says Program Director Almira Agosto. “She can protect herself with her voice and has a long-term plan to go back to school so she can get a job and support her children and maybe even leave her husband.”
Jean Albrent, Executive Director for the Domestic Violence Center says this woman, like hundreds of others served over the past 24 years at the Center, cannot just step out on the life she has been creating. Sometimes after years of marriage, children and a shared home purchased together, it is too overwhelming to think about undoing the lives they live.
“We teach them strategies to cope and ways to recognize the cycle of violence, power and control in the relationships they are in,” says Albrent.
First there is a build-up of tension followed by an explosion with ranting and raving. This is where the release of tension comes in. That phase is followed by the honeymoon phase when the batterer is sorry, says they won’t do it again and the victim believes the promise.
So, why do victims stay in relationships with their batterers?
“A lot of woman living in abusive relationships feel dumb for being victims. They live in shame. Some are successful businesswoman and don’t come forward because they are afraid of what their clients would think,” says Albrent.
Her team sees both physically and mentally abusive situations, not always one or the other.
“People who are abusers are not all monsters. They are wounded or hurting in their own way,” says Albrent.
With their abuse, they break a person’s spirit and destroy their belief that they can have anything other than what they have.
“Economically, it cuts all ways. We’ve seen women with nice homes, clothes and cars and we’ve seen those who have nothing. The wounded come from all ranks in the community,” says Albrent.
She says abusers definitely know what they are doing and for them it is a difficult pattern to break their habits and acknowledge their hurtful behavior.
“If an abuser starts to yell, we teach victims to move toward a phone. We tell them to keep a cell phone charged at all times so it’s easily ready when needed. Secure the confidential support of a neighbor they can run to for safety if need be. Keep a suitcase packed in the trunk of the car for a quick escape,” says Albrent.
Bearing witness to their pain is what Albrent and her team at the Center are committed to doing.
They offer a 24-hour hotline, safety planning and a safe environment if they choose to move to the shelter.
“It is a basic human right to live the life they want to live,” says Albrent. “We worry about our clients and we get frightened for our clients. So we listen to what they are asking for and we guide them on their journey.”
Agosto likes to remember the success stories.
“I like seeing the children smile and laugh as they go to their new home. I like seeing them turn around and say, ‘Good-bye and thank you.’ Those are the same children who were once not smiling when they came to us. Success comes in small steps.”
If you know someone who may be a victim of domestic abuse or know a batterer and want to help, visit www.dvcsantaclarita.com for further information or call 661-259-8175 (non-emergency) or 661-259-HELP (24-hour hotline).
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