Domestic Violence: Hidden tragedies afflict affluent communities as well, leaving lasting scars | Off Deadline | | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Off Deadline



About this blog: I was editor of the Palo Alto Weekly from June 2000 to January 2011, capping a more than 50-year career in journalism and writing since Los Gatos High School, where I was editor of the student newspaper and president of the speech...  (More)

View all posts from

Domestic Violence: Hidden tragedies afflict affluent communities as well, leaving lasting scars

Uploaded: Oct 22, 2015
A deeply qualified panel of speakers will explore the often hidden tragedies, and crimes, of domestic violence in affluent communities next week.

The tragedies range from physical violence, almost always against women, to long-lasting psychological scars on both the direct targets and children in "DV" homes, using the shorthand for domestic violence. Children raised in DV-afflicted homes are at vastly greater risk of being victims of physical violence themselves statistically show lifetime psychological and health effects, including becoming abusers themselves, a tragic inheritance.

The panel will be next Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the El Palo Alto Room of the Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road in south Palo Alto. It is free and open to anyone from any community, but its focus will be on the affluent communities, where financial resources can become a screen that can hide and protect abusers from legal consequences.

It is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission, spearheaded by new commissioner Shelly Gordon (see Palo Alto Weekly story at

The panel is entitled, "Domestic Violence -- It Couldn't Happen Here, Could It?" It will be moderated by Palo Alto Mayor Karen Holman.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, head of the Intimate Partner Violence Taskforce, will deliver the keynote address.
This is the first in a series of HRC-sponsored forums "designed to raise awareness about sensitive issues that are not always acknowledged or discussed in the community," according to panel organizer Shelly Gordon, who joined the HRC in June.
The forum "will give residents a safe place to talk openly about this difficult subject. The goal is to connect attendees with local resources that can help them, whether they are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is," Gordon said.

"More importantly, Palo Altans can band together as a community to help each other end domestic violence here at home."

Last January, a center specifically focused on services for abused women in affluent communities moved from Los Altos to Palo Alto. The center was founded by Ruth Patrick, a member of the Oct. 28 panel (see Weekly story at

In addition, the Weekly did a dramatically compelling cover story on Oct. 30, 2009, a collection of articles that included resources for DV victims, as well as a vivid description of one woman's situation (see;;;;

The cover story, printed almost six years to the day ago, conveys an overriding message:

Help is available!

But fear of physical and/or financial retaliation, and shame, are huge barriers to a victim (almost always a woman) seeking help.

The seriousness of DV is underscored by some extra-grim statistics: There have been five DV-related deaths in Palo Alto alone over the past 20 years, with 10 deaths in neighboring Los Altos Hills -- compared to zero deaths in Mountain View and Menlo Park.

But those are the exception to an almost epidemic level. In 2014, for instance, there were 96 "domestic violence" calls, resulting in 38 calls that resulted in a domestic-violence police report. Many of the calls came from women who reported being subjected to DV for more than two years. And such calls are considered the most dangerous calls to which a police officer needs to respond, including armed robberies.

An added tragedy is that 75 percent of DV-pattern homes have children under 18 in the household, and children in such homes are an estimated 1,500 times more apt to be subjected to violence themselves, according to panel organizer Gordon, who joined the Human Relations commission last June.

While focused on affluent communities, the panel is open free to anyone from any community, regardless of economic status, Gordon emphasized.

Protecting one's children can be a huge motivator in a woman taking action relating to domestic violence, even though many direct victims may not know the lifelong impacts being a witness to the violence can have on children of any age.

A woman I know personally, and have known since she was a teenager, broke from an abusive marriage only after her husband slammed their pre-teen son against a wall. But she was unable to collect court-awarded damages from her well-off husband and suffered economically.

Patrick is founder and director of WomenSV (Silicon Valley), a program serving victims of domestic violence in middle- to upper-income areas. Ruth's program was incubated by the Los Altos Community Foundation and recently moved from Family and Children Services over to another non-profit, the Domestic Violence Intervention Collaborative (DVIC) in San Jose. She trains therapists, law enforcement and medical staff and does public presentations about forms domestic violence and abuse take in more affluent areas, and consults for attorneys and therapists.

In addition to Patrick, panelists include:

* Clarissa Hamilton, supervising deputy district attorney for the Palo Alto Branch Office, where she has held various positions for 15 years prosecuting North County crimes, as well as supervising the Family Justice Center, which coordinates services for domestic violence victims.

* Julie Saffren, an attorney who focuses on domestic violence, and a former staff attorney at Support Network for Battered Women, who trains attorneys, judges and mental health professionals on DV issues statewide. She also chairs the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council, and teaches a seminar on domestic violence and family law at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

* Melissa Luke, program manager of Asian Women's Home, the domestic violence and human-trafficking program of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI). She is a second-generation Chinese-American, and previously served on the the steering committee of the Santa Clara County Collaborative on Affordable Housing and Homeless Issues. She currently serves on leadership teams of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium of Santa Clara County and the YWCA Mid-Peninsula Donor Advised Fund, and is a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council.

* Richard Ferry, a marriage and family therapist with a private practice in San Jose. He co-founded the Men's Counseling Program at the Mid-Peninsula Support Network in Mountain View in 1981, served as men's therapist until 1984 and clinical supervisor until 1991. Since 1992 he has provided expert witness testimony about domestic violence in more than 110 criminal cases and since 2000 he has done psychological assessments of victims of domestic violence in more than 30 civil and criminal cases.

Rarely has a stronger panel been assembled, on any topic, making this forum a powerful investment of one's time and attention.

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be e-mailed at He also writes regular columns for the Weekly's print edition.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Ruth Patrick, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 22, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Thank you Jay for highlighting this issue and this panel--very timely, given that it's Domestic Violence Awareness month. We hope residents from neighboring communities can attend as well. Domestic violence can happen anywhere to anyone no matter how modest or nice the neighborhood. If we come together as a community we will be so much more effective at addressing an issue that affects so many of our local residents including their children.

Posted by fcservices, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Oct 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for continuing coverage of this vital public health issue. Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley continues to offer support services for survivors (in English and Spanish). To connect with confidential support, call 650.543.5436.

Posted by Abused Ex-Husband, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 26, 2015 at 4:17 pm

I'm saddened that the article perpetuates the stereotype that physical violence "is almost always against women"

Please see:
Web Link

One key finding (from a summary of the CDC report):
"More men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence within the past year, according to a national study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Justice. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (hereinafter NISVS) released in December, 2011, within the last 12 months an estimated 5,365,000 men and 4,741,000 women were victims of intimate partner physical violence. (Black, M.C. et al., 2011, Tables 4.1 and 4.2)"

Posted by Todd, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Jan 9, 2016 at 3:41 pm

1 /10/16 Thanks Jay, truly a voice of the reality for all people; as well as teenagers with depression. A reader of the P.A. Weekly, and recovered from depression. Todd

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Boichik Bagels is opening its newest – and largest – location in Santa Clara this week
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,483 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Page 15
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 967 views

By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 857 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.