By Deborah Brancic, Pasadena Now Correspondent
The figures for domestic violence in the U.S. can be staggering when examined in aggregate.
According to Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim assistance organization, which is based in New York City, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. Further, women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men, and women between the ages of 20 and 24 are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
Congresswoman Judy Chu spoke Monday at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, to kick-off national domestic violence awareness month in October. Chu, in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente and the Women’s Groups of the Greater San Gabriel Valley, have organized a drive to help support victims.
“This is a drive that I started ten years ago with Kaiser Permanente to collect cell phones, clothing, and personal necessities for victims of domestic violence,” said Chu. “So many times they leave their abusers with only the clothes on their back.”
“We all have too many things in the closet that we could get rid of, but why not let it be donated to such an important cause,” said Chu. Some suggested donations are used cell phones, gently used clothing, toiletries, household cleaning products, and children’s school supplies.
Several companies have offered their own donations for victims as well. Chu said Verizon Wireless has offered to refurbish the cell phones and give survivors 3000 minutes for free. El Monte cosmetology school the Professional Institute of Beauty (PIB) has also offered a Day of Pampering to survivors, which includes a makeover.
Also speaking at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse was a domestic violence survivor, identified only as Cece. The single mother openly shared her experiences, wiping tears from her eyes as she recounted the abuse she had endured before finding help at a shelter.
Cece’s abuser had been a deacon at her church. Her relationship with him escalated to abuse after she had her daughter, now 3-years old. She did not run to a shelter immediately because she was unaware that was an option.
“When I heard about shelters, the first thing I thought was downtown missions, things like that. I didn’t want to have my baby there.” Eventually she did go to a shelter in Long Beach, where she stayed about 4 months before her child’s father was able to find her.
This February she was referred to the YWCA-WINGS of San Gabriel Valley, and she is doing better. A recovering alcoholic, she temporarily lost custody of her daughter, but said she will be regaining custody at the end of November because of her progress.
Cece now attends panels and meetings as a speaker, sharing what she went through with other victims of domestic violence.
“I talk about my story to make sure that I never forget it, and it might help save somebody’s life,” she said.
“One thing I would like to tell to other domestic violence victims is that you can survive that. Find the strength within yourself, move forward, don’t believe what your abuser is saying to you because they want to keep us bonded,” said Cece. “We are queens and we deserve to be cherished. And in order for us to really find that, we have to dig deep within ourselves.”
“I was raised in a dysfunctional family, but today I can say I am breaking the chain,” she said.