Monday, March 22, 2010

Domestic Violence

What would you do if a friend of yours started confiding in you about terrible living conditions at home? She starts out by telling you that she feels horribly misused. Her husband treats her like a servant, and controls all of the family finances. Since your friend doesn't have a job, her husband is able to totally control the family income, budget and payments. He doles out money to her – if she does what he says. Sometimes she has to ask for money for personal or family necessities.

As time goes on, your friend reveals more. Her husband is making her feel like a terrible parent, and openly criticizes any attempt on her part to guide or discipline the children. He frequently gets very angry and threatens to divorce her, kick her out of the house, and take the children away from her. He blames her for everything that goes wrong, even things that he clearly is responsible for. He calls her stupid and crazy and she's beginning to believe it.

As time goes on, your friend reveals that she feels terribly isolated. Her husband has limited her contact with friends and relatives and is extremely jealous of her friendships.

You increasingly feel that there is something you should do but she begs you not to tell anyone else. Eventually you realize that you may be the only person she is talking to.

Finally, she reveals that her husband has gone beyond intimidation and emotional rages. He has actually shoved and hit her, and has threatened to hurt her again.

Where can your friend turn in a situation like this? How do you refer her to someone who can give her confidential advice and assistance?

Last week I wrote about different ways that a court can help the victim of domestic violence which can be physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional in nature. Today, we'll discuss agencies and advocacy groups. This information is not comprehensive in nature; additional information can be obtained from the groups listed here.

King County. The King County Prosecutor has a domestic violence advocacy unit located in the King County Courthouse in Seattle (206/296-9669). This unit provides advocates for victims of domestic violence to help them get or modify protective orders through the court. Similar units exist at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent and the district courts in various cities throughout South King County. Additional information can be obtained by calling the Court Legal Advocates for the district court: Aukeen (206/296-7768); Federal Way (206/296-7892); Kent (206/205-7455); Renton (206/296-9651); and Southwest King County (206/296-8876).

Washington State. Statewide information and assistance can be obtained through the Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-562-6025). You can be helped to keep you home, work or school address secret by calling the Washington State Address Confidentiality Program (1-800-822-1065).

Here are some of the agencies and groups available: DAWN or Domestic Abuse Women's Network of Kent (253/656-8423); New Beginnings, for confidential shelter and residence (206/783-28848), or Katherine Boothhouse (206/324-4943); Seattle Rape Relief (206/325-5531); Northwest Women's Law Center (206/682-9552); Cross-Cultural Family Law Clinic (can be contacted through the Northwest Women's Law Center); Seattle King County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (206/623-2551).

A very active private agency in the South King County area is DAWN, mentioned above. They have free legal clinics once a week which discuss many legal issues faced by the victims of abuse. Topics covered by their legal clinic include divorce or legal separation, custody of children, child support, payment of debts, and establishing paternity. DAWN also has a 24-hour crisis line (425/656-7867), a confidential shelter, and support groups with free child care.