If you believe, as I do, that if Kevin Bacon resided in Sonoma County, his "Six Degrees of Separation" would be more like 2?, and considering that 25 percent of families are affected by domestic violence, how many connections to this issue does that make for you?
The fact is that in our community, family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers are struggling with domestic abuse played out behind closed doors. Often, they go about their relationship with you and me without us ever knowing about it.
Presenting the gold resolution honoring October as domestic violence awareness month, Supervisor Shirlee Zane said it best when she noted that Sonoma County is known for many things. But sadly we also are known for the 1989 Ramon Salcido and 1996 Maria Teresa Macias domestic violence homicide cases. The gruesome details of the Salcido case, which left seven people dead, put our community on the national stage. The Macias tragedy has been described as the touchstone case in the fight to end violence against women.
The Macias case in particular was responsible for changing the way our county responds to domestic violence as far as victims are concerned. The result was and continues to be a collaborative partnership among support between local law enforcement, other government agencies and domestic violence service providers.
Based on the primary concern for victims' safety and recovery, the YWCA established an advocate position to ensure that victims receive referrals to resources of support, counseling and social services.
Representatives from YWCA Sonoma County stood together in the Board of Supervisors' chambers with our partner agencies at the Family Justice Center — the Commission on the Status of Women, local law enforcement and the district attorney — demonstrating the model of collaboration to stem the tide of domestic violence.
Our community recently lost a beloved second-grade teacher in Petaluma and a retired Sonoma County Development Center employee, both at the hands of their husbands. The frequent appearance of domestic violence-related headlines underscores the fact that it is an issue in our community.
Given that victims leave their abusers an average of seven or eight times, there often are others who are aware of the inner turmoil of a domestic relationship or are victims themselves but don't know how or where to get help. YWCA Sonoma County's 24-hour crisis hotline (546-1234) is the fastest connection to services in our community.
Fielding some 3,000 calls annually while providing more than 5,000 referrals for services, YWCA stands at the ready. Safety planning and assessment, individual and group counseling, therapy for children, placement in our confidential shelter and advocacy are the hallmarks of the work of YWCA Sonoma County.
YWCA defines domestic violence as threatening behavior that seeks to control and exercise power over another person. Go back to the 25 percent; does this sound familiar?
The most powerful tool our community has against the erosion of families through domestic violence is awareness. YWCA Sonoma County is the leading provider of domestic violence services in our community. Learn more about how you can reach out to your 25 percent at our website, ywcasc.org.
<i>Madeleine Keegan O'Connell is chief executive officer of YWCA Sonoma County.</i>