Los Altos is a wonderful place to raise a family. We generally are acquainted with our next-door neighbors and can’t help but run into someone we know when we go shopping or out to eat. And how many towns are like ours – where you can walk your dog at night and not be looking over your shoulder?
Los Altos is one of the safest towns in the country and one of the most beautiful. It’s truly a blessing to call it home.
Yet as safe and friendly and beautiful as our town is, it is not immune to a problem that affects one in four women in our country: domestic violence.
There are women in our community living like prisoners in their own homes.
When they finally summon the strength, courage and resources to leave, they are often driven into overwhelming debt, bankruptcy and even homelessness by their affluent abusers.
Sometimes these women don’t even realize what kind of debt they have incurred until they leave the relationship and discover their partners have taken out credit cards in their name, run up tremendous debt and ruined their credit.
How can they even rent an apartment when the first thing a prospective landlord does is run a credit check?
These are ordinary women, from ordinary families, who went to college, studied hard, earned degrees, developed professional careers and in some cases, gave those careers up to stay at home and raise their families.
These are women like you and me.
And like you and me, they fell in love with a partner who promised to love and respect them and act with integrity.
For some women, that promise turns to abuse. Once the marriage ends, the abuse is often transferred from the home into the legal arena.
Some ex-spouses cut down their hours or stop working altogether to reduce their support obligations.
Others find ways to hide their assets, scattering funds across a dozen different accounts, filing inaccurate income and expense reports or sending money overseas.
Many women report their affluent abusers say that, “This is war. I will destroy you.”
There are women in our community today facing eviction, living in cars, wondering how they will be able to feed themselves and their children.
As a community, with so many wonderful men and women who use their power, money and influence for good, can we come together and see what we can do to help and support the women and children who have become trapped, and abused, and traumatized – and sometimes even homeless –when they should have been loved and protected? And in doing so, can we make our community an even safer and more beautiful place to live and raise our families?
Sponsored by the Los Altos Community Foundation, Women/SV, the Women-of-Means Escape Network, Silicon Valley, assists women and children in our community threatened by abusers. It works to eliminate domestic violence by educating professional providers and the public and by providing support, education and resources that empower women and children to more safely and effectively address abusive situations, heal emotional and physical damage and create a new and healthier life.
If you are someone or know someone affected by domestic violence or financial, emotional, technological or legal abuse, there are resources and support available.
For more information or assistance, call 996-2200 or visit womensv.org.
Ruth Patrick is executive director of Women/SV.