Palo Alto gets new center for domestic-violence services

Women/SV to join Family & Children Services

A domestic-violence services center for women in affluent communities is now headquartered in Palo Alto.

Women/SV, formerly called the Women-of-Means Escape Network, moved on Jan. 6 from Los Altos to the offices of Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, which is located at 375 Cambridge Ave.

Palo Alto police wrote 96 total domestic-violence reports in 2014. Misdemeanor arrests were made in 32 of those cases, and there were 16 felony arrests. In the remainder of the cases, no arrests were made and they were informational reports, Lt. Zach Perron said.

The program fills a gap in services for victims of domestic violence in northern Santa Clara County, founder and Executive Director Ruth Patrick said.

Until now, Women/SV has been in incubation for three years with support from the Los Altos Community Foundation. At Family & Children Services, Patrick will continue offering Women/SV programs, which include helping women find shelter, counseling and legal representation, she said.

The newly housed services will also offer education about the problem of domestic violence to attorneys, the courts, social workers, medical professionals and therapists.

With funding, Family & Children Services wants to add individual counseling and case-management for victims, according to Maryanne McGlothlin, Family & Children Services director of grants and communications.

Patrick, who has a state certification in domestic-violence education, was inspired to launch the program after she was struck by the prevalence of domestic violence in the affluent communities. She was teaching at Stanford University and in schools in Santa Clara County and raising awareness of eating disorders when she noticed some of her students were having a hard time in class. She soon learned the students lived in homes where there was domestic violence and saw their mothers being hit or verbally abused.

"A lot of them were thinking about the trauma and chaos at home," she said. "Domestic violence doesn't just happen on the wrong side of the tracks."

Patrick started focusing on services for women in affluent communities to address their particular needs.

"The more money and power and public influence you have, the more weapons you have to use as tools for abuse," she said.

Since October 2011, Women/SV has helped more than 250 victims, many whose children were also affected, she said.

Like for all domestic-violence victims, abuse includes beatings, threats and verbal and emotional attacks. But the affluent Silicon Valley abuser poses additional threats.

"This is the epicenter of technological abuse. They can use technology to punish and to blackmail victims," she said.

Silicon Valley abusers harass the victims day and night; they track their partners' whereabouts through cell-phone activity, making themselves seem omniscient. They'll crash the victim's website or send fraudulent messages to her message board; they hack emails, pose as friends or family of the victim and send messages to alienate the victim from people who support her.

And when the victim snaps after being harassed to exhaustion, abusers will record that eruption on video or audio. The abusers make themselves look like the abused, Patrick said.

Abusers use the recordings as blackmail or to win a child-custody battle. Faced with such "evidence," the victim may find herself arrested or the subject of a restraining order, she said.

The intimidation-and-fear relationship often continues through divorce and court proceedings.

"The average, untrained eye won't see the body language, the back and forth between the abuser and the victim in court. It's imperative for judges to see that," Patrick said.

So she offers trainings to attorneys and the courts to look for signs of abuse -- skills that are not necessarily taught in law or medical schools, she said.

Women/SV joins a handful of other domestic violence programs in Santa Clara County, though the others are headquartered in the south. The YMCA Domestic Violence Support Network, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence and Asian Americans for Community Involvement's Asian Women's Home are located in San Jose. Just one organization, Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA), serves all of San Mateo County, she said.

Patrick said she will appreciate the infrastructure of a phone and office in a dedicated health and human services facility and the staffing it can provide.

Diana Neiman, president and CEO of Family & Children Services, said the organization has worked closely with Patrick and Women/SV in the past on domestic-violence prevention and advocacy. Up until now, the 67-year-old services agency has only been able to offer limited victim support when batterers enrolled in the agency's counseling programs as directed by the courts.

"We are delighted to welcome Women/SV as part of our organization," Neiman said.

Patrick will give a presentation, "Loving Dr. Jekyll, Leaving Mr. Hyde," on Feb. 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Deborah's Palm, 555 Lytton Ave. The event is free.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned about Domestic Violence
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm

I have lived in this community for many a decade and remember the days when there was an organization called "La Casa De Las Madres" which provided shelter for women trying to leave domestic batterers. In the ensuing years more and more attention and education has been put on violence against women. It seems that the latest revelations about the NFL players and the inappropriate lack of appropriate punishment has had the effect of giving men the idea that they will not get punished if caught. I am wondering how man of the cases where no arrests were made are because of the fear and intimidation felt by women from the perps. I hope that none of these men go on to commit more heinous crimes against their domestic partners.

Great to see that there is someone offering real support for these victims in Palo Alto!

Like this comment
Posted by Karen
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2015 at 6:06 pm

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Robin
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 13, 2015 at 10:26 am

So wonderful and heart warming to see this organization grow, mature and find their new spot. As a native of Los Altos Hills, who now lives in San Francisco, my heart will always have a special place for LA. I remember when Ruth Patrick started her organization out of LACF. She serves a need and it is truly heartwarming to know she is making a committed difference to abused women. I applaud your vision, your dedication and wish you much success in the years to come. Bravo Ruth - you are in inspiration!

6 people like this
Posted by franklin
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 13, 2015 at 8:03 pm

I am assuming a similiar center for men who are victims of both legit domestic violence those suffering from being falsely accused will be constructed within the area also?

7 people like this
Posted by Surly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

Franklin, I'm sure when more than 1/3 of all men are subject to domestic violence and when more men are killed by their partners than strangers, men can get domestic violence shelters, too.

Given all the recent news stories about the women murdered by their ex's -- the woman working in the Chicago Nordstrom's and the family of the woman in PA just to name two -- judges should have to answer for DENYING restraining orders to people repeatedly threatening violence against their partners because they can't accept that some lowly woman rejected them.

4 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Professorville
on May 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Franklin, I totally agree with you. When will hear about a center for domestic violence for men, too? It appears that false allegations, domestic violence(and all of its forms), are more and more common among women than men...Possibly, Ms. Patrick might transform her center in a center for domestic violence for men and women?

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