Sufferers of domestic violence often feel isolated from the world and sometimes feel like they have no escape. This was the case for a woman named “Lillie” who was abused by her husband and is receiving help at a women's shelter in Hanford.
A year and a half after her abuse started, "Lillie" finally recognized that the ongoing mental and physical abuse she was receiving was causing her to become isolated from the world.
“I was continuously being raped,” "Lillie" said. “I had no [way] to contact my family.”
After 10 years trying to leave, her family found a social worker who helped "Lillie" into a women’s shelter.
“I even went under intense medical and psychological rehab to get adjusted to society again,” "Lillie" said.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and local organizations hope to bring more awareness about domestic violence and information about services offered locally. Local agencies help victims like "Lillie" seek out their help.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional and can include threats, intimidation and economic deprivation. Nationwide, one in four women and one in seven men 18 years and older have been the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner.
Dr. Margarita Prado-Borrego, a therapist in Visalia, counsels women who have been victims of domestic violence.
She said there are many reasons why victims tend to stay with their abusers including being isolated from their families, having low self-esteem and not having an independent life before the abuse started.
“They learn to rely on their abuser whether it’s for financial or emotional support of some kind,” she said.
Prado-Borrego believes domestic violence is being reported more now because of greater awareness and more resources available.
In Kings County, the Kings Community Action Organization and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program are just a few places people can receive help including from local police departments.
There are other agencies in nearby counties that offer help like the Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno, the Visalia Battered Women’s Shelter and the Central California Family Crisis Center in Porterville.
Joey Cox — intervention, prevention and support services director of the Kings Community Action Organization — said the nonprofit agency has a number of resources available such as shelter, counseling and paralegal services that deal with restraining orders, referrals to other companies and, when needed, staff to accompany people to court.
Cox said the organization has received more crisis calls this year, 509, compared to the 375 that came in 2015.
Cox said he's seen an uptick in the number of people who want to leave a violent situation and need housing. In 2015, 25 women and 35 children were placed in a shelter. In 2016, so far, the agency has placed 44 women and 35 children in a shelter.
Cox believes more people have asked for help because KCAO's services are becoming better known.
“We always make sure they have somewhere to go,” he said. “If our shelter is full, we will always provide another location.”
He said the organization also receives calls from people outside Kings County and California requesting shelter in the area.
“There’s quite a good domestic violence network in the United States,” he said. “I think the network has done a good job directing people to safe places.”
In July, the organization received $7,700 from the San Joaquin Valley Health Foundation to form a Domestic Violence Advisory Group. The group is made up of people who have been a victim of domestic violence and their goal is to figure out ways to better serve other victims.
“The whole purpose is really to create a best practice with working with future victims,” he said.
Julia Patino, program coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office Victim-Wellness Assistance Program, said the program helps victims of violent crimes better understand the criminal justice system.
“When a police report is made we try to get to them as early as possible,” she said.
Victims who have been injured may also be eligible for financial help through a Victim Compensation Program.
Patino said the program has domestic violence advocates available even if a police report is not filed.
“You can’t give up on [the victims],” she said. “You just have to keep trying to get them into a safe place.”
"Lillie" said she is happy that she was able to find a women’s shelter and one day hopes to become a peer advocate to help other women like her.
“It’s a miracle I’m alive,” she said. “There might be many girls who may not get a second chance. Don’t let an abuser control your mind."