October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
by Kit Lambert of StepStone and Gordon Ramsay Wichita Police Chief
A Safe Place to Be
The following survivor’s story is being retold with her permission. All names and some details have been changed for the safety of our survivor and her children.
3 year old Gage, “Mommy, are we going to that safe place?”
Kate, “Yes, baby, yes, we are. We are going to that safe place.” (Kate and her children have been in shelter before.)
Since 1995, StepStone has been providing transitional housing and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence. Last year, StepStone provided housing for over 100 women and children and outreach services for over 700 women, men, and children.
Kate, “Please tell that officer thank you. She saved my life. I need to do this for my kids. We have a chance to make a fresh start.”
As first responders, the Wichita Police Department is responsible for over 16,000 domestic violence related calls a year, more than 1,000 a month.
“Hey, buddy, what would you like for Christmas?”
8 year old Max, “Nothing. I just want them to stop fighting.”
Last year, the two domestic violence shelters, the Wichita Family Crisis Center and Harbor House each provided shelter for over 300 women, men and children and outreach services for over 1,000 individuals. They had to turn away over 40 survivors a month due to capacity issues.
Kate, “I need to talk to you. I know that Jake is not supposed to be here but I need to get the kids to daycare and school and I have to go work and he has a car. The bus does not run after 6 or on Sundays. As soon as I get my tax return, I am going to buy a car and won’t need him anymore. Jake says we should get back together and we would work things out. Do we have to leave here?”
The #1 reason why a woman cannot leave a domestic violence relationship is due to finances.
4 year old Molly, “This is a safe place and my daddy is not a safe person. He told us we were coming home with him.”
Max, “Why is my daddy so mean? When I become a daddy, I am not going to be mean.”
The Wichita Police Department is a key community partner in our effort to end domestic and sexual violence. Their officers regularly attend trainings, work with advocacy groups and implement best practices to ensure victim safety is at the forefront of their response.
Sergeant A, “She told him he could not be around anymore so he forced his way in and spent the last 24 hours holding her hostage and ….. She is currently at the hospital getting an exam. It was bad. We have him, though. He told us he knew he could not be here but that everything was consensual.”
It is now 1:00 a.m.
Kate, “I’m so sorry. I let this happen to me. I should have known better.”
Every day, an average of 3 women are killed by a current or former intimate partner.
Kate, “They really miss him. He is their dad. He keeps trying to get a hold of me from jail. He’s called my mom to pass messages to me. Did you know he sent Molly a letter? She can’t even read!”
Batterers can continue to violate protection orders, even while incarcerated.
“Aren’t you excited that you are getting ready to graduate from StepStone? You all have done so great!”
Max, “No, not really. This is the only safe place that we have ever lived. I never want to leave here but I also know other kids also need to be here.”
Domestic violence and sexual assault services will be greatly reduced without continued funding. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helps to provide protections as well as funding to support survivors like Kate and her children. Contact your legislatures and ask them to reauthorize VAWA. Help protect our families from violence.
Officer A, “Hey, I am glad I ran into you. How is that family doing? I think about them a lot. That call was really bad. Sometimes, I check on the case to see where it’s at. I hope he gets a lot of time for what he did. I hope that mom and the kids are doing okay.”
Police officers truly care for victims of domestic and sexual violence. These calls also impact them. Everyone is affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Kate, “He finally pled. Max and I don’t have to testify against him. I don’t know why I was expecting him to apologize to me. The kids don’t ask for him anymore. He got a lot of time but he is still going to get out eventually. The worst thing is that he is their dad and he did this to me.”
This year, we have had 6 domestic violence homicides. If you suspect someone is in a domestic violence relationship, let them know that you are there and that you believe them. Volunteer your time. Make a donation. Contact your legislatures to strengthen laws to hold offenders accountable.
“What would have happened to me if the police had not been called? I would be dead. I’m so grateful that police officer told me she was afraid for my safety and did what she did so we could be safe that night. The kids are so much happier now and for the first time in a long time, I am not in constant fear.”