Los Altos (KPIX 5) According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 women and about 1 in 7 men have experienced violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. This week’s Jefferson Award winner Ruth Patrick has dedicated her life to helping domestic violence survivors in a community where some might not think it would occur: Silicon Valley.
Patrick founded the non-profit, WomenSV. In seven years, Patrick says WomenSV has offered free services for more than 1200 domestic violence survivors, mostly women, in middle to upper income Silicon Valley communities.
KPIX spoke to one of the women who has been helped by WomenSV. ‘Sam’ is a pseudonym. She asked that her identity be hidden for her safety. That’s because ‘Sam’ says escaping her abusive husband was very difficult.
“Every car I had had a tracker in it,” recalled ‘Sam’. “And in 2014, he held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me.”
Sandy Harvey has also sought the services of WomenSV, but gave permission to KPIX to reveal her identity. Twenty years ago, Harvey’s husband, a Silicon Valley executive, killed himself and the couple’s 5-year-old son. Harvey said she had buried the trauma of that event, and the abuse she suffered before, deep inside for decades. Harvey says she has found healing through WomenSV and now volunteers with the group.
“I thought I was the only one,” explained Harvey. “I thought I had to be quiet about it.”
WomenSV offers a helpline, weekly support groups, counseling, and links to resources. Its volunteers accompany abuse survivors to the police, court and other legal meetings. Patrick says she teaches police, prosecutors, and community groups how to identify patterns of abuse, and to recognize that abusers may have prominent positions in the community.
“Because he’s a doctor, lawyer, engineer, CEO, highly respected in the community, nobody would ever guess he has this dark side,” said Patrick. “Taking control of their finances, putting her on an allowance, isolating her so she has a hard time connecting with her extended family or friends, blaming her for everything.”
Abuse survivors like ‘Sam’ have credited Patrick, and her non-profit WomenSV as being a lifeline.
“She is truly a guiding light to freedom,” said ‘Sam’.
Funding for WomenSV comes from corporate, city, community and individual donations. Its largest annual fundraiser is in the fall at the Los Altos Golf and Country Club.