Driving away from domestic abuse
What happens to a woman when she is abused at home?
"I think one of the hardest things is to break out of the silence and to begin to ask for help and to know there is help and there is a place to go," said Jane Patten, executive director of the Peace House in Park City.
Women who are abused by their spouses or other members of their family face a lonely and difficult road to leave their situations and gain independence.
On Oct. 13, in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, five women from the Park City area and other women from domestic-abuse shelters in Utah, drove their way to freedom in refurbished cars donated by 18 auto dealers and shops in Utah.
Patten said there wasn’t a dry eye at the event, held at Murray High School in Salt Lake City.
"It was just so touching, because each woman gave a reason for why this meant so much to them," Patten said. "They need that independence and the ability to move on with their lives."
The Charity Cars idea was first organized in Chicago in 2005 by Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts and Services. Jeff Crockett, marketing and training director for Henderson Wheel & Warehouse, said the auto company wanted to put their services toward a good cause.
"People need help when they have no transportation and no money to get transportation as they rebuild their lives after escaping from a domestic violence situation," Crockett said in a prepared statement. "We want to provide that help right here in our own communities, and we wanted to help a lot of people Our members decided to help by doing what they do best maintaining, servicing and repairing automobiles and light trucks."
Emily Bench, a case worker for the Peace House, said the event left her happy and full of hope for the women who where chosen to receive the cars. Out of the 17 cars donated, five of Park City’s Peace House’s women were selected to receive them.
"It was really neat," Bench said. "You don’t often get to see a physical payoff of all the work these women do [to gain their independence]."
Karen L. Koerselman, who directs the Peace House shelter, said the women were "overwhelmed" with gratitude, hope and joy when they received refurbished cars. It was a token of respect and admiration for the work they’ve done to stay on their own two feet, find employment and raise their children alone, she said.
"One woman said ‘This is the first time I’ve had four new tires on a car,’" Patten said.
The cars were selected especially for the needs of each woman.
"One of the women got a van and she has a number of children, so it will help her transport her children," Patten said. "One got an SUV, which is good for driving in Park City [The mechanics] seemed to be very thoughtful in the way they assigned the cars to the different women that were recommended."
Charity Cars is also proving the initial down payment for the women’s car insurance, license and title fees.
The Charity Cars campaign hopes to be able to donate more than 500 refurbished cars across America during the next three months, Patten said.
Patten said it was interesting to see a group of predominantly male workers warming up so adamantly to a group of women who have been in such bad situations with men they were once close to. She said thinking of these women was a tender thing to do.
"It was just so wonderful to see," she said. "They said they wanted to support these women who had had a tough time gaining their independence and being on their own They wanted to give something that would make a difference, and they certainly did."
Koerselman said the women still have a long journey to healing but said the car donations will assist greatly.
"There are definitely days of sadness for their situations, but also so much hope and courage," Koerselman said. "I respect their strength and courage."
The Peace House in Park City was established about 20 years ago. The organization offers support, shelter and resources for people involved in domestic-abuse situations.
The Peace House educates the community at schools or other community functions about the effects of abuse and how someone can escape an abusive situation. The Utah Domestic Violence Council’s slogan is "No excuse for abuse."
"Our educational programs are preventative. We’re trying to change the cycle of abuse. Children in domestic abusive homes sometimes become abusive, themselves," Patten said. "There are just no excuses for any type of abuse."
Patten said those in an abusive situation or those who know of an abusive situation can contact the Peace House at the organization’s crisis hotline. The crisis hotline is 1-800-647-9161 or 647-9161. She said the house will offer resources and shelter to those in harm’s way.
"What we try to do is help a woman understand a situation. There is no pressure if she calls for information for [herself or a friend]," Patten said. "We’ve had parents call for their children, other relatives, co-workers just people that realize somebody is in trouble and is being abused and they want to know where they can get help. We want them to know we’re here for them."
For more information about the Peace House, visit http://www.peacehouseinc.org or 647-9161.
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