Community Matters: Leaving home a part of life for battered women |

Community Matters: Leaving home a part of life for battered women

Reverse 911. Now isn’t that a concept? They call and tell you that you’re having an emergency.

During the Martis Fire, many Reno neighborhoods were on tap to be alerted for evacuation by a new ‘reverse 911’ system where an automatic system calls residents.

Whichever way the 911 call is made, emergencies mean that sometimes you have to rely on others – friends, barely acquaintances, strangers, nonprofit organizations, congregations and government – to simply sustain yourself.

I was evacuated during the Oakland Hills Firestorm in 1991. It was a frightening experience. One of my cats was scared by the smoke and commotion and hid. When I could see the flames from the deck, I made the decision to leave him behind.

Fortunately the fire stopped about half a mile away. When I returned home the next day, my cat was standing at the front door meowing, complaining about being left behind, the awful smell and the lack of food.

For weeks, pieces of people’s lives blew onto the back deck. Fragments of books and clothes and furniture drifted in and out of sight.

Gathering a few things to take and leaving home gave me a glimpse of the experience battered women face when they flee their house in order to stay alive and have no way of knowing whether they will ever be able to return.

Tahoe Women’s Services is the domestic violence organization for our region. They provide emergency shelter for women and children. If a woman calls the crisis line, she learns how to make an escape plan. She may learn to set aside a little bit of money and gather up some clothes in a trash bag. She may also be encouraged to collect health records and school information.

Tahoe Women Services offers legal, employment, counseling and prevention programs. They also provide counseling to the children of battered women – the silent witnesses of domestic violence.

I remember talking to a domestic violence counselor who worked with children. She talked of the 10-year-old boy whose teacher reported that he slept throughout the school day. When the counselor talked to the boy, she found out that he tried to stay awake at night to protect his mom from her boyfriend. What’s more, he kept a baseball bat under his bed. He thought he could use the baseball bat to keep mom’s boyfriend from hurting her. It was only when he and his mother were safe in a shelter that he could sleep through the night and stay awake at school.

Shelter, while a core component of domestic violence agencies, is provided to only a small fraction of women who are abused. Many women who need to leave their home have the ability to support themselves. Others have family to whom they can return. Still others are able to share housing with friends. Yet, for those who have no other alternative, a shelter is critical and lifesaving.

By supporting Tahoe Women’s Services, Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation becomes part of the “others”- friends, barely acquaintances, strangers, nonprofit organizations, congregations and government – so that women and children do not have to stay where it’s not safe because there is no where else to go. If you would like to learn more about Tahoe Women’s Services, call 546-7804 or Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation at 587-1776.

Lisa Dobey is President of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. She can be reached at 587-1776 or TTCF’s goal is to grow philanthropy to meet community needs and opportunities.

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