0 0 ca. cn New Escape From An Old Hell By Janie Paleschic Austin “You don’t have to be hit to be batit’s more than just counting broken bones or bruises. Sometimes I would be huddled in a corner saying, ‘Hit me, hit me, you son of a bitch, and get it over with.’ He was very much into terrorism.” The threat of physical violence was constant for Kathy, 32 years old, mother of two children. Even after 11 years of marriage, she never knew what would set her husband off. One night it would be that she’d cooked chicken for dinner, the next night because she hadn’t. Sometimes it was almost a relief when the beating came. “The day I left he locked me in the house and told me I was never going anywhere the rest of my life. I had the distinct feeling that it [her life] wasn’t going to be that long. I realized at that moment that there wasn’t anything I could do to change him. It was going to keep going on like that, and get worse and worse. He’d been screaming at me since the night before. I had made up my mind already that I was going to go.” Janie Paleschic is an Austin writer. For a year, Kathy had been hiding her bruises. Emotional abuse had escalated into physical assaults. But, like many women in her circumstances, she didn’t know where to go or what to do when she got there. There were the children. She had no money, no means of support. Nothing. All she knew for certain she would have if she left was relief from the beatings. But there was one hope a place Kathy had heard about the Austin Center for Battered Women. She dialed the number of the center, and a volunteer counselor talked to her. Within a few hours someone from the center picked up Kathy and her children. They stayed at the center seven weeks, protected from Kathy’s husband and receiving counseling and referrals from the center’s staff and support from the other women staying there. From that start Kathy found a small apartment, got a job and obtained a divorce. The children are doing better in school. Meeting a Need Kathy’s journey from loving marriage to family violence is one of society’s dirty little secrets. The possibility of that journey lies in every household, every marriage, every relationship between men and women because ultimately the causes of men’s aggression toward women are woven in the fabric of our culture and the fabric of our psyches. It may take decades for society to reconsider and revamp the male-female role stereotypes that can trigger the kind of family violence known as “wife beating,” but women in Texas, as well as women around the world, have decided that relief from the immediate results of battering can and must come now. The first shelter movement began in England in 1971. It spread to the United States, where nearly 500 refuges are in operation, including the Austin Center for Battered Women. In every instance, the shelters were organized at the grassroots level as a response to community need. As such, they have become not only safe havens, but centers from which women may redirect their lives. Shelters in Texas communicate and coordinate through an association known as the Texas Council on Family Violence. Most of Texas’ major cities have some kind of program, funded by a mixture of public and private donations. Staffing at all the shelters depends heavily upon volunteers. Rural areas, where battering is no less a problem than in the cities, sometimes take longer to establish centers. Of the various operations, the one in Austin is considered the most advanced “light years ahead,” according to Dr. Toby Myers, head of the Texas council. Myers also is one of the found THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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