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September 18, 2012 > Breakfast opens eyes to domestic violence

Breakfast opens eyes to domestic violence

By M.J. Laird

Local people are reaching out to the community so they, in turn, can extend a network of support to victims of domestic violence. Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE) will host its 10th annual Breakfast Eye Opener on Friday, September 28; all proceeds benefit the organization and its programs.

A community-based nonprofit agency serving the Tri-Cities and beyond for more than 36 years, SAVE offers domestic violence prevention and intervention services including emergency shelter, counseling, and a 24-hour hotline.

This year's Breakfast Eye Opener will focus on intimate partner abuse and how it affects not only the survivor and those around her or him, but everyone in a community. As part of the morning's program, a former SAVE client will share her story. For many, she may seem unlikely to experience domestic violence, yet her situation illustrates that domestic violence crosses all backgrounds and socio-economic groups. Supportive friends and family, a college education and deep religious faith, were not enough when domestic violence entered her life. Assistance from SAVE was a key element that allowed her to move away from violence, into a healthy environment.

SAVE Executive Director Rodney Clark reports that one of every three or four people, depending on the study, will encounter domestic violence at some point in his or her lifetime. Children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are six times more likely to become adult batterers or enter into abusive relationships then others.

SAVE offers its services free to anyone. Funds from SAVE's Breakfast Eye Opener, the sole community-wide fundraiser for this organization, is responsible for up to 45 percent of its $1.4 million budget. Additional support is received through grants and governmental entities, which are uncertain during these difficult economic times.

SAVE serves about 8,000 people annually; of those, about 3,500 are middle-and-high school students participating in SAVE's Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program teaching youth about healthy relationships. Additionally, SAVE advocates in the Fremont, Hayward, and San Leandro Police Departments serve approximately 1,500 people who need domestic violence intervention. Another 300 women and children are served by the SAVE emergency shelter; 400 clients receive individual and group counseling and 200 more receive assistance at a restraining order clinic.

"People think that as an organization we are doing fine with 36 years under our belt," says Clark. "But we aren't fully funded. A portion of our funding comes from government, but the rest we raise from individuals and corporations. We can't continue the level of services needed without support from the communities we serve."

Clark has difficulty settling on just one illustrative story of SAVE services. He recalls an incident that occurred just last month when a woman left a shelter from a different agency after her batterer showed up with a gun. Clark said that SAVE staff educated the woman about methods her batterer could have used to locate her, tracking through her phone or a device attached to the undercarriage of her car. After SAVE's counseling, the woman threw away her phone and had a mechanic remove the device.

SAVE considers education key to its community work. Domestic abuse takes many forms, explains Clark. Another situation involved a Taiwanese woman who married and came to the United States; her husband convinced her that American customs called for the husband to take control of all finances, including her $60,000 bank account and credit cards. SAVE was able to explain the truth to this client so she understood her rights.

Clark recalls the work of many local organizations that have helped SAVE including Washington Hospital Employee Association which provided new furnishings after SAVE rehabilitated its shelter. When shelter residents returned after the work was completed, one young resident exclaimed, "Our house looks like a castle now!"

For Clark, SAVE's work is about making a difference in the lives of people every day and helping to change communities. Although most agencies focusing on domestic violence are overseen by women, Clark says he came to SAVE because the issue is not simply a women's issue, rather a human issue. As a father of two teenage girls, he wants to help change our culture.

"The only way to change the culture is to get everyone involved. That is why I do the work I do. I want my daughters to grow up in a safer world. To do this, we have to teach the children. We can't assume kids know. They watch TV. They watch how people relate to others. We need to teach them, and part of teaching them is to talk with them about gender roles, to see that men can be supportive, too, and women can be strong. We need to listen to what our kids are listening to and to talk to them."

Breakfast Eye Opener
Friday, Sept 28
7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Hilton Newark/Fremont
39900 Balentine Drive, Newark
(510) 574-2266
Tickets: $75

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