Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by domestic violence, but despite the prevalence of the problem, many people still wonder how someone can get stuck in the situation.
Using their combined 16 years of experience working at a local domestic violence shelter, Womenspace, now Alliance for Hope and Safety, as well as the lessons of their troubled childhoods, Pearl Wolfe and Evelyn Anderton want to shed some light. They worked closely together for three years creating Walk Out the Door, a fictional portrayal of a real issue.
“I wanted to talk about how this happens, because even people I know make funny comments about, ‘Why don’t they just go?’ Anderton said. “I have to explain to them what’s going on.”
Those who work with survivors of domestic violence know the grim statistics all too well. Finances, co-parenting, pet ownership, home ownership, and family relationships can all get in the way when separating from a romantic partner, but things often get more dangerous when someone tries to leave their abuser.
In their book, Woolf and Anderton explore what it takes to leave one of their main characters, Liz, who quickly turns into a new romance that reflects the mistakes and trauma of past generations. Set in the many familiar scenes of Lane County, readers will find three different stories that reveal the many contradictions and complexities of domestic violence, as well as the hope of escape.
In addition to normalizing the conversation about domestic violence, the authors hope that the book can answer the constant questions of loved ones who witness dangerous dynamics: What can I do? How can I help?
“I hope reading this book gives people some tools,” Wolfe said.
The two also hope the book will be a part of the libraries of shelters and support groups to give survivors a story to help them process their past.
Using fiction to give a face to the problem
The Union of Hope and Security began in the 1970s. When Wolfe and Anderton worked together at a domestic violence shelter in the late ’90s, they were a dynamic duo—often writing grants together. Wolfe described the job as extremely challenging and one of the best jobs she has ever had in her career.
They were intrigued by the idea of using fiction as a platform years ago. When Wolfe joined Anderton in retirement, they were able to fully realize the idea, writing each chapter in turn. The trick was not to sound too preachy or too technical, they shared.
“My daughter was the one to ‘get rid of the social work jargon in the book.’ It’s so foreign, mom, you really need to speak English,” Wolfe said. “So we really tried to make the book accessible to everyone.”
Both had time to reflect on their own childhood experiences with domestic violence, as well as the challenges they witnessed in their careers. Writing the story was frustrating, fun and sad at times, they said, and led them to share stories with each other that they hadn’t told before.
“Writing a book together was not an easy task,” Wolff said.
“It was pretty amazing,” Wolfe said. “And we’re still friends.”
The book is available at local bookstores and online. Information on future book signings can be found online https://pearlwolfe.com.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
While working at the shelter, Wolfe and Anderton spent time with the community about the issue through forums, school visits, club meetings and religious gatherings. A lot has changed over the past few years, but the issue has not been resolved.
“There have been improvements, but these kinds of social issues really change generations,” Anderton said.
So far, 281 criminals have been charged with domestic violence in the Eugene police department. In 2021, their total number was 414, and in 2020, 357.
The Hope and Safety Coalition now responds to over 600 calls each month from the Eugene/Springfield area, providing food, diapers, tampons, clothing, shelter, housing support or safety planning to those in need. Over the past year, the organization has increased the number of survivors accessing services, Brandi Yanez, director of programs and capital, said in an email. They have seen nearly 1,000 survivors in their business last year, including their children.
According to Yanez, the nonprofit receives requests for emergency shelter several times a day, but options are limited, waiting lists are long and shelter availability is very low.
This year, the Hope and Safety Coalition is joining the National Network to End Domestic Violence in its national campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Every1KnowsSome1. The organization hopes to highlight how common domestic violence is and spread awareness of the topic beyond physical violence. According to the organization, one in four women and one in seven men experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“To support survivors and prevent future domestic violence, we all need to normalize talking about it openly and openly,” Yanez said. “We need to change the conversation about domestic violence – and we need your help.”
During the months of October and November, Alliance Hope & Safety and their national partners will raise awareness about the complex dynamics of domestic violence. Fundraisers will be held at local breweries and restaurants through the end of the month. The week of action, which begins on Monday, includes Maundy Thursday. People can wear purple by using #PurpleThursday and #HopeStarts to raise awareness of domestic violence and share a photo on social media.
. More information can be found online hopesafetyalliance.org/dvam.
If you or someone you know needs help in the Eugene/Springfield area, call the Alliance of Hope and Safety’s 24-hour crisis and support line at 541-485-6513 or 800-281-2800. The domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafyniuk-Talesnik at [email protected] or 541-521-7512 and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.