The roots of the Women-of-Means Escape Network/Silicon Valley (WOMEN/SV) can be traced to founder Ruth Patrick’s career as a teacher.
Patrick, who founded her organization in 2012 with a grant from the Los Altos Community Foundation, distinctly recalled the difficulty some students had paying attention in her class one day.
“Some of them were thinking about what was going on at home – the trauma and the chaos they were living in on a day-to-day business,” said Patrick, whose organization offers a range of support services for abused women in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and other surrounding cities. “How can you pay attention when you’re thinking about how dad treats mom, or vice versa?”
She began asking those she suspected of living in abusive homes “the difficult questions.” That curiosity, Patrick added, led to a revelation – a noticeable service gap for victims living in affluent areas of Santa Clara County.
“There’s a perception that domestic violence doesn’t happen in the nicer parts of town or, if it does, a woman has all the resources she needs to deal with it,” said Patrick, who added that more than 85 percent of domestic abuse victims are women. “What often gets lost in that misperception is the understanding that women often don’t have access to those resources – her partner has cut her off from them.”
Using her training as a teacher, she proceeded to develop curriculum to educate victims and help them find sorely needed resources to change their circumstances for the better.
The organization offers the means and knowledge for victims to receive legal, financial and counseling support, as well as other resources.
Patrick estimated that she assists one to three new victims weekly. To date, her efforts have helped approximately 230 victims, including Los Altos resident Deb Hope, who has struggled for six years to divorce what she termed her “disordered spouse.”
Hope credited the organization and its vast network of resources with her bid for a happier – and safer – life.
“I now have an attorney who is competent in the very difficult and specialized task of dealing with people such as my former spouse,” she said. “Personally, I have become strong, empowered and dedicated to helping others who have also been abused by their spouses.”
Sunnyvale resident Darcy Griswold, who relocated from North Carolina following her divorce from an abusive husband, added that she learned of Patrick’s work and recently donated $5,000 to WOMEN/SV.
“I wish there had been an organization like WOMEN/SV in North Carolina to help me as I struggled with an emotionally and financially abusive ex-husband,” Griswold said.
Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis said he’s proud to call Patrick a partner in the fight against domestic abuse – which he noted was an underreported crime. What sets Patrick apart, he noted, is her personal connection to victims. Patrick personally accompanies victims to the police station at all hours of the day or night, or to court, to offer support.
“She stands shoulder-to-shoulder with me,” he said. “We communicate often so that we can get word out to those community members who need our services.”
Patrick conceded that her job contains more than its fair share of trials and tribulations, but the ability to offer a helping hand to a victim in need is priceless.
“Every part of my job is tough,” she said, “but every part of it is rewarding, too.”
All Holiday Fund contributions are tax deductible and processed through a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The foundation provides letters acknowledging donor contributions. The Town Crier will present grant funds to the 20 organizations in early 2015.
To donate online, visit siliconvalleycf.org/latc-holiday-fund.
To donate by check, make checks payable to “SVCF/Town Crier Holiday Fund” and mail to 2440 W. El Camino Real, Suite 300, Mountain View 94040.
For more information about the Holiday Fund, visit latcholidayfund.org.
For more information about WOMEN/SV, visit womensv.org.