The ‘destructive’ choice between abuser and homelessness

Local event recognized victims of domestic-violence incidents and promoted prevention strategies

About two weeks ago, the gated community of Island Village– on the border of Seal Beach in southeast Long Beach– was rocked with the sound of gunfire when a husband fatally shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

Wayne Havron, a 53-year-old off-duty Los Angeles Fire Department captain, was the suspect in the killing of Sidette Havron, his 45-year old wife who later succumbed to her injuries in the hospital.

It was another example of a perilous circumstance turned fatal– and many recognized the act as another case of domestic violence. Havron and victims of abusive relationships were honored in an event last Friday.

The WomenShelter of Long Beach hosted its 11th Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month Event on Oct. 6 at the Teachers Association of Long Beach headquarters in an event that recognized the lives of those impacted by domestic violence and raised awareness about the issue to help prevent potential abuse.

Community leaders provided statements about the impact domestic violence has on the neighborhood, and nonprofit organizations were present to share information about prevention tactics and resources, such as shelters, hotlines and programs.

“During this month, we reaffirm our commitment to ending domestic violence,” said Mary Ellen Mitchell, executive director of the WomenShelter of Long Beach, last Friday. “As you know, domestic violence is a serious social and health problem. And it is occurring right here in our very community. […] Tonight, we are here to honor the lives of those who have been affected by domestic violence and promote awareness in hopes of preventing future violence.”

Mitchell said the organization just purchased a new shelter and is currently in the process of renovating the site. She said the hope is to get the new shelter completed by the end of the year.

During her remarks, Janice Hahn, 4th District supervisor for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, presented Mitchell with an official County of Los Angeles commendation for the WomenShelter in recognition of its dedicated service to the community and its civic pride through numerous contributions to hundreds of women in the region.

Photos by Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune
During the WomenShelter of Long Beach’s 11th Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month Event at the Teachers Association of Long Beach office on Oct. 6, Janice Hahn, 4th District supervisor for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said more than 4 million women experience domestic violence every year and called the issue “more common and more destructive than I think most people even realize.”

“We know that there are women who are forced to choose between homelessness and staying with their abuser,” Hahn said. “And this decision is made even more impossible when there are children involved. That’s why I am so grateful for the WomenShelter of Long Beach, which has become such a safe haven for hundreds of domestic-violence victims and their children. Not only does the WomenShelter provide housing, it provides legal aid, support groups, therapy, family services and self-esteem workshops. The WomenShelter helps provide the hope they need to carry on– not as victims, but as survivors.”

She noted that more than 4-million women experience domestic violence every year and called the issue “more common and more destructive than I think most people even realize.”

Abigail Mejia, senior deputy with Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia’s office, also presented a proclamation on behalf of the City of Long Beach for all the work the WomenShelter has done to bring awareness to the issue.

That Friday, 8th District Councilmember Al Austin said he and his office have co-hosted events with the shelter in the past to assist in passing along information. Austin is also an honorary board member for the WomenShelter of Long Beach.

Citing National Public Radio, Austin said more than half of female homicide victims were killed in connection with intimate partner violence. He added that the statistic applies to all racial and ethnic groups.

Moreover, he said, on average, three women or more are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands in the United States every day, a statistic verified by the American Psychology Association.

“Sadly, domestic violence affects everyone,” he said. “It does not only occur to people in one type of relationship or to only one gender or to one demographic. This happens to everybody and has a profound effect on families. […] I hope we can all do our best to bring awareness and to prevent these actions from happening in the future. I know I’ll do my best.”

Aubrey Hawkinson, who currently teaches music at the Orange County School of Arts and has more than 20 years’ experience singing, performed two songs– Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” and Bette Midler’s “The Rose”– for those in attendance in honor of victims of domestic violence.

Handlers with the nonprofit organization BARK were present at the event, where children could sit down with dogs and read them books.

Tim Hayes, a volunteer with BARK, said the sessions help children cope with stress and allow them to relax. Kids are often the third-party victims when it comes to domestic-violence situations.

Pictured is therapy dog Luna and her handler Keri Gawlik, who were both representing the nonprofit organization BARK at the WomenShelter of Long Beach’s 11th Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month Event at the Teachers Association of Long Beach on Oct. 6. Children, who are often third-party victims in domestic-violence situations, can read to dogs as a form of coping with stress.

Among the many organizations proving resource pamphlets at the event was Children Today, a nonprofit founded in 1997 whose mission is to foster long-term stability and success in children from families who are facing homelessness or are involved in the child-welfare system.

Children Today utilizes EcoHouse, a facility that provides trauma-informed child development and family-support services. In terms of domestic violence, many cases involve relationships with households that include one or more kids.

An informational pamphlet revealed that exposure to domestic violence may trigger abusive, submissive, insecure and anxious behaviors within the child. There is also a risk of regressioin in child development, specifically with motor skills and language.

Other consequences may include hypervigilance as a result of paranoia, trouble sleeping and attachment issues– either constantly wanting attention and a desire to be held or not wanting to be touched at all, according to childrentoday.org.

The pamphlet also states that trauma-informed approaches are necessary to provide children the care they need and creating environments and services based on that understanding.

End Abuse Long Beach and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles also provided what they called a “Domestic Violence Safety Plan” to detail protective strategies in the wake of a domestic-violence situation.

The full strategy guide can be found at bit.ly/2gsXZLM. The plan details some of the following:

• Devise a code word to use with your children, family, friends and neighbors when you need the police.
• If an argument seems unavoidable, have it in a room or area that has access to an exit– not in the bathroom, kitchen or anywhere near weapons.
• Call the police as soon as it safe to do so. Think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond right away.
• Plan to attend a support group to gain the aid of others and learn more about yourself and the relationship. Decide who you can call to give the support you need.
• Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.

“It takes a lot of courage to change your situation,” Hahn said. “It takes a lot of bravery to leave a place that is your home.”

The WomenShelter of Long Beach’s Domestic Violence Resource Center can be reached at (562) 437-7233 or womenshelterlb.org. Lydia House at the Long Beach Rescue Mission offers consultation assessments via appointment at (562) 591-1292 ext. 301. Those interested may also visit lbrm.org for more details about donating resources. The nonprofit Su Casa, 3840 Woodruff Ave., offers a 24-hour hotline service at (562) 402-4888.

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