Fighting back against domestic violence
At some point in their lives, people are affected by domestic violence, according to volunteers at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center. That is why they give their time to the evening crisis line.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault does not know age, nationality or economic boundaries, and it happens in our community,” said Marie, an eight-year volunteer.
Volunteers say that people should not think of volunteering as a burden, but rather as a way to give back to the community and to feel a greater sense of self worth because of it.
“It doesn’t take any special kind of person,” said Lois Denowitz, executive director at the Women’s Center, who is looking for more people to commit to one night a month.
“I want more diversity,” she added.
Crisis workers handle calls via cellular phones.
“When I was first on the phone I felt like I had to stay in one spot,” Diane, a 10-year volunteer said, adding that when she is called, her family knows and understands her commitment.
“When you go on the line nothing you can say is wrong,” said Francesca, who has volunteered for a year.
Marie said nighttime is when problems can escalate into burdens.
“Most of the time all it takes is a few kind words of encouragement, a referral to one of our many community resources or simply a compassionate shoulder to cry on. It’s so rewarding to realize that in some small way I made a difference,” Marie said.
“I’ve been a Women’s Center volunteer for about two-and-a-half years now, and to this day, whenever I am on a call – when that telephone rings, I still have an adrenaline rush,” Kathy said.
“It’s not necessarily a crisis all the time,” Francesca continued.
Denowitz said the line is mostly used for resources and referrals to women who don’t know where else to go for information.
“In 20 years (as a volunteer) I can count on one hand how many actual crisis calls I have had,” Denowitz said.
“I have often been asked not only by friends, but even by my own children, why do you do it. You are not paid,” Kathy said. “Tahoe is a small community and knits well in a crisis of one of its locals. Probably someone you know, whether it be a neighbor or an individual you work next to could very well be a victim of domestic violence.”
Birgit recently completed the course and will soon be answering the crisis line. She works in the environmental field and sees that people tend to look at far away problems rather than starting with what is right in front of them.
“I want to let women know that they have a place to call,” Birgit said.
“It is very dangerous to leave an abuser,” Linda said. “That’s why the typical scenario is 11 attempts before the abused person (usually a woman) leaves for good. Working the crisis line gives me the opportunity to be the volunteer that provides the support and encouragement to make that successful transition to safety.”
“If I were to recollect any one issue or emotion that drew me to be on the crisis line I guess it would have to be the O.J. Simpson scenario,” Kathy said. “The victim in that situation was relatively famous and would ideally have access to most services but because of notoriety was unable to seek those services out and was probably and unfortunately a prisoner of circumstance.”
The Women’s Center will host an open house June 8 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. A new building at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd. was acquired in 1999 with a low-cost loan through the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, funds raised locally and an $80,000 grant from the Sierra Health Foundation, an independent foundation committed to supporting health-related activities in Northern California.
Breakout: Training classes for crisis line volunteers are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. to 7:55 p.m. at Lake Tahoe Community College. Volunteers must attend 24 sessions. The crisis line, which can be reached at (530) 544-4444, is manned daily from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.
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