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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 31

Remembering the fallen

Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara County holds its 25th annual Candlelight Vigil

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

This year in Santa Barbara County, at least four women so far are suspected to have been murdered at the hands of their lovers during a domestic dispute.


Walk for a cause
Join Domestic Violence Solutions as it presents its 25th annual Domestic Violence Awareness Candlelight Vigil. Participants will march from Santa Maria City Hall to Santa Maria High School. The event is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 15, at 5:30 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend.

Every year, Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara County (DVS) holds a candlelight vigil to honor such women, who died as a result of domestic violence. October marks the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this year marks the 25th annual candlelight vigil.

Scheduled for Monday, Oct. 15, at 5:30 p.m., the vigil will start as a march from Santa Maria City Hall and will end at the Ethel Pope Auditorium at Santa Maria High School. The actual ceremony will begin at 6 p.m.

According to DVS Residential Programs Director Kim Barnett, large red silhouettes are made for each of the specific victims. The silhouettes tell the stories of the women who died.

“We still struggle with basic issues; men still think it’s OK to hit women,” she said.

Barnett noted that last year’s vigil brought out 350 people—a lot of them younger residents. DVS is expecting anywhere from 350 to 400 people at this year’s event.

DVS is a service shelter for women in Santa Barbara County, but Barnett said she’s not sure everyone knows it’s here.

“There is someone to call, somewhere to go,” she said. “We don’t provide just shelter.”

DVS provides an array of services to victims of domestic violence, primarily women and children. It offers a 45-day stay, case management, and counseling for such victims. There are also services available to help reestablish income, childcare, and housing.

Barnett said DVS also offers a program known as DVERT—Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team—which includes trained advocates who accompany police on domestic violence calls.

“The program has been active for at least 10 years and advocates for victims in the moment to ensure their safety,” Barnett said.

She explained that when women arrive at the shelter, DVS’s main goal is to help them deescalate and get comfortable.

“We want them to feel safe, stabilize the crisis, and give them space,” Barnett said.

Once victims are ready to talk, DVS representatives speak with them about the cycle of violence and help to empower them.

Barnett said some cases of domestic violence are so severe that the women are unable to return to their homes. Because of this, DVS has two long-term transitional apartment complexes available.

“We continue to provide counseling and case management, help provide them with whatever they need, and aid in reestablishing income,” Barnett said.

She explained that community donations help DVS provide victims with furniture for their apartments, as well as clothing and school supplies for displaced children.

Barnett shared that DVS sheltered 120 women and children last year, responded to 275 DVERTS, and reestablished 73 households in Santa Maria alone. Countywide, DVS sheltered 315 victims, responded to 700 DVERTS, and reestablished 150 households.

While these numbers show how much DVS does for domestic violence victims, the statistics are also revealing—many women are still suffering at the hands of violence.

During an interview with the Sun, Barnett made it clear that she’s both shocked and angry that women are still having this issue. A self-declared feminist, Barnett has been advocating for women’s rights for 30 years.

“Empowering women to be equal has always been a lifelong goal of mine,” she said. “DVS has provided me with a way to make that happen.”

The ultimate aim of the organization is to challenge stereotypical ideas and speak out against wrongs.

“We want to challenge male and female roles, get people to understand that violence is never OK,” Barnett said.

During her 30 years, she’s seen the domestic violence cycle repeat and continue. She’s seen child victims grow up and return to the shelter as victims of abuse, while some have even become abusers themselves.

“We see [the cost of domestic violence] in schools, classrooms, costs for housing, and expenses incurred for intervention courses,” Barnett said.

Aside from the obvious physical side effects of domestic abuse, there’s also the mental deterioration that takes place.

“The single biggest factor is self-esteem and confidence,” Barnett said. “It’s a tearing down of the sense of self.”

Unfortunately, women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence—children are heavily affected as well.

“Children grow up seeing these things, and it perpetuates the cycle; violence is how they are taught to respond,” she explained.

Growing up in a violent home can lead to emotional disturbances, post-traumatic stress disorder, and trouble focusing in school. DVS also is seeing more youth victims of abuse, and Barnett said such cases tend to be the most violent; these kids don’t comprehend how aggressive they’re being.

Through various community outreach events and a wide array of services, DVS is seeking to end this cycle of violence and get to the root of this issue—which is both a man’s and a woman’s issue.

“We want to empower women and make them understand they don’t need to be treated like that,” Barnett said. “They need to know that violence is not OK. Not once, not ever.”

Contact Staff Writer Kristina Sewell at ksewell@santamariasun.com.