Glendale College's Student Magazine
Monday July 16th 2018

Silent Cries: Recovering From Domestic Violence at the YWCA

Domestic Violence Photoillustration by Isiah Reyes

Think back to a time when you felt powerless.  That fight in grade school or that argument that resulted in heartache.  Float further back to the moment when you realized this was a fight that you will lose and there is nothing you can do about it.  Every nine seconds a woman in the U.S. is assaulted or beaten.  At least one in every three women has been assaulted, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Every day in the U.S. more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

Glendale offers some solace for women who are in abusive relationships.

“The YWCA of Glendale deals with at least 3,000 cases of domestic violence a year,” says Operations Manager Raquel Ortiz.  The YWCA, conveniently located in the heart of Glendale, has become a safe haven for many of Glendale’s domestic violence victims as well as victims from neighboring cities.

“They usually come by referral from the police department after an incident has occurred,” says Ortiz.  “We get victims of all ages, I’ve seen victims as young as 14 years of age and as old as 65. Domestic violence has no boundaries.” Ortiz, an expert in social work for 30 years, began working with domestic abuse victims at the YWCA seven years ago.

Domestic violence is characterized by a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or economic.  “The most common cases that occur usually include every form of domestic abuse tied into one.  The victimizer usually begins physically and emotionally abusing the victim,” says Ortiz.  “Then it flows into psychological abuse by the method of intimidation and economic abuse as they are forced to stay home because of injuries. The goal of an abuser is complete control over the victim. It is that fear of not being able to make it on their own that makes them stay.”

The most prevalent cases today include domestic abuse among teenagers.  “We usually deal with a lot of young ladies who have been victimized either physically or emotionally by their boyfriends,” says Ortiz. ”These children are being born into a generation where music and television teaches them that it is OK to call a woman a bitch in order to put her in her place.”

Carmen Rodriguez, 21, a former client of the YWCA domestic violence program can definitely attest to this.  “I was 17, a senior in high school, when my ex-boyfriend started flinching at me. I thought it was funny that he thought I was intimated by him.” Rodriguez later found out that these non-verbal advances would turn physical and be the way her boyfriend communicated his fury or abhorrence of her.  “The first time he hit me it was very surreal, I could not believe he actually did it.” She pauses momentarily and takes a deep breath and continues, “We were arguing about me talking to this guy we were both very good friends with.  He saw us hug and came over and grabbed me by my arm. He was very aggressive about it.  When I looked into his eyes I did not even recognize him.”

Rodriguez continues to recall the events of her first attack.   “ When school let out we walked home hand-in-hand and he was very quiet and overly passive I knew something was wrong, so I asked and he just looked at me and said, ‘ just wait, you will see’ I was very nervous, but against my better judgment I still went over to his house.”

Rodriguez lifts her pants leg revealing a 5-inch scar on the side of her calf caused by injuring herself on the edge of her ex-boyfriend’s living room table in an attempt to run from him.  “We always had two hours of free time before his mom got home. We usually used that time to have sex and do other things we could not do while his parents were home.  He started kissing me and wrapped his hand around my neck.  His grip grew tighter and tighter before I knew he was behind me and I was clinching my hands around his arm trying to break free,” she explained the vivid details of this ghastly attack.

“There was a dresser and mirror in front of me and I remember seeing my reflection.  My face and eyes were very red.  I struggled and barely broke free before I ran out of the room tripping and scraping my leg on the edge of his living room table. A couple of days later he called and apologized and had an explanation for his actions and I took him back. During the following years things got worse until I eventually got tired and I left him one night [while] he was asleep.”

Rodriguez found the YWCA on her quest to find independence as she was a mother-to-be.  “I was three months pregnant when I left him.  I went in to the YWCA and the staff was very helpful and friendly.  They were not judgmental like some of my family and friends had previously been. They helped me with housing, legal paper work, food, and clothing.  If it hadn’t been for this place I probably would have been dead, I am forever indebted to them.”  Rodriguez’s story is only one of thousands of success stories that have taken place at Glendale’s YWCA.

The Domestic Violence program at the YWCA offers various services to women and children who are victims of domestic abuse, including housing, classes on domestic abuse, parenting courses, legal services, and other necessary services to aid victims.  “Our whole goal is to empower these women and teach them the necessary life skills they need to survive,” says Ortiz.  They work with various shelters and government assistance programs to provide housing and jobs for these women.  “When the victims arrive here they are allowed to stay for 45 days and within that 45-day window they are usually assisted with finding housing through the Section 8 program.”  The program offers a variety of group sessions as well as one-on-one counseling, such as helping the victim identify the root of the problem, non-violent conflict resolution strategies, self-esteem building exercises, and self-love workshops.

“My mother was a victim of domestic abuse,” says Ortiz.  “That is one of the reasons why I chose social work as a career, I grew up with the idea that I wanted to facilitate change in people’s lives.  I love what I do: I get to see the fruits of my labor.”  She smiles briefly, “I get to see children come in broken and leave happy.  I get to see women walking out into the world that once imprisoned them with a smile on their faces because they are courageous and their independence has been revealed, that’s the best part of my job.”

 

About DJ Johnson
Darria "D.J." Johnson has a background in beauty and a passion for writing. She is a journalism major and this is her first semester with the Insider.

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