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Toll-free numbers there to help violence victims

Domestic violence aid group seeks more funds
By: Penne Usher, Gold Country News Service
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Seven women in Placer County have been killed since August 2003 as a result of violence from a loved one, including 17-year-old Justine Vanderschoot. "It's tragic when people don't know where to go for help," said Arla Gibson, executive director of PEACE for Families. "There is hope and help available." The tragedy of domestic violence and the need in Placer County are reasons PEACE for Families embarked on a capital campaign to raise funds for a new confidential shelter for women of domestic violence. Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline's Web site. In 2003, 151 women in California were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. In Placer County, 200 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2004, according to Lt. George Malim, spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff's Department. "These were not arrests or convictions, just reports," he said. In Auburn, for the same year, there were 61 reports of domestic violence. "These reports specifically relate to domestic violence and are not restraining order violations in relation to domestic violence," said Det. Sgt. Chris Reams with the Auburn Police Department. Gibson has made it her mission to tell women that help is available. She said victims of domestic violence are most likely to have their life in jeopardy by the time they choose to leave. "(During) that period of time following leaving or planning to leave, there will be an attempt on her life," Gibson said. "If it's going to happen, that's when it's going to happen." Det. Bill Sommers, with the Placer County Sheriff's Department's crimes against persons unit, said there is a rise in domestic violence calls during the winter months. "It probably has a lot to do with people staying indoors and causing more frustration," Sommers said. "We find there are more calls after the holidays as anxiety of oncoming taxes and economic issues rise." To help women in crisis, Peace for Families offers a safe and confidential place to stay. "We have a 24-hour-a-day crisis line. We'll pick you up," Gibson said. Women and their children can stay in the shelter for 60 days. A variety of services are offered including counseling. Battered women with substance abuse issues have the option of remaining in the shelter for six months while receiving treatment, Gibson said. More often than not a victim's motivation to leave a violent situation revolves around her children. "The threat becomes huge. Children could somehow become involved in trying to stop the violence or women see their children acting with the same violence," Gibson said. The current shelter provides refuge for 15 women and their children. The campaign to raise $2.5 million will allow PEACE for Families to build a new shelter capable of accommodating 39 women. To learn more about supporting Peace for Families, contact Gibson at 823-6224. The Journal's Penne Usher can be reached at penneu@goldcountrymedia.com.