• Mission: WomenSV aims to empower survivors, train providers and educate the community to break the cycle of covert abuse and coercive control in intimate-partner relationships. Since WomenSV was founded 10 years ago, it has served more than 1,000 domestic abuse survivors who have been trapped in relationships with powerful, sophisticated abusers.
• 2021 update: WomenSV provided services for more than 200 individual survivors of covert abuse over the past year. The nonprofit sponsors weekly support groups and arranges ongoing individual meetings with each survivor to offer safety planning and education in all of the areas they come under attack – not just through physical and sexual violence, but through emotional, financial, legal and technological abuse.
Support from the community made it possible for WomenSV to continue educating local providers.
“We were able to do trainings for Kaiser physicians, Valley Medical Center physicians, Los Altos Police Department law enforcement, Santa Clara County probation officers and many others to help them become more trauma-informed in serving domestic abuse survivors, who on the surface appear to have it all, while secretly living like prisoners in their own home with a partner who threatens to destroy them in every way possible should they ever try to escape,” said Ruthven Darlene, WomenSV founder and executive director.
Darlene said one of the major WomenSV milestones was partnering with the city of Los Altos to declare October Domestic Violence Awareness Month. October was already designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We are grateful to the city of Los Altos and to our local LAPD for helping to raise awareness about another life-threatening problem that affects twice as many women,” she said. “While 1 in 8 women will be stricken with breast cancer, 1 in 4 will be a victim of domestic violence. It’s the pandemic within the pandemic. COVID continues to impact domestic abuse survivors and put their safety at risk, now that they are trapped with their abuser.”
• Why the Holiday Fund is needed: WomenSV provides its services at no cost.
“Due to the severe financial abuse so many of our domestic abuse survivors experience, we don’t charge for our services at WomenSV,” Darlene said. “So, we must rely on the steady support of our community to keep our program going. The Town Crier’s steady, generous support through the Holiday Fund helped WomenSV make it to our 10-year anniversary this year. … The Holiday Fund’s support of WomenSV is making it possible for us to go on supporting them now, when they need us the most.”
Darlene said the Holiday Fund helped provide burner phones for survivors whose electronics had been compromised by their tech-savvy abusers, allowing them to reach out to attorneys and domestic violence advocates to help plan and navigate their escape.
Location: PO Box 3982, Los Altos 94024
Annual budget: $633,000
Staff: 4 full-time
employees; 20 volunteers