(Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of Bill McEwen’s Jan. 10, 2019, column on the financial challenges facing the Marjaree Mason Center.)

Domestic violence again is sending tremors through our community.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director/Columnist Bill McEwen

Opinion

Bill McEwen

A day after she obtained a restraining order against the father of their 1-year-old daughter, a Fresno woman was shot and killed by him. After fleeing the scene Saturday, the man killed himself, police say.

Fortunately, the girl wasn’t at the house in southeast Fresno where the homicide took place.

According to Fresno police, domestic violence calls are surging — up 35% this year.

Education the public about domestic violence is important, of course.

But here’s how everyone can lend a hand. I’ve financially supported the Marjaree Mason Center in the past and am doing so again. I hope you join me in putting the center on solid financial footing.

More Than 140,000 Nights of Shelter

Here are some facts you should know while considering a donation.

Majaree Mason is serving more adults and children than ever. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, Marjaree Mason provided 143,234 safe nights of shelter to 1,232 different individuals in Fresno and Clovis  — about two-thirds of them children.

In 2017, the Fresno Police Department handled nearly 5,200 domestic violence calls, including 491 involving a weapon. In 2018, domestic violence increased by 6% in the city.

Portrait of Nicole Linder

“To see everybody in a family get to a spot where they really believe in themselves, to me, there’s nothing greater.” — Nicole Linder, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center

Now put the numbers aside for a minute and imagine the heart-pounding terror accompanying domestic violence calls. Imagine what the 26-year-old Fresno woman who was killed Saturday went through in her final hours.

Picture a child experiencing the horror of seeing their mother being threatened or struck — or a child getting beaten.

Childhood trauma leads to physical and mental health problems throughout life. For adult victims, beyond the physical injuries, there is fear and confusion or even emotional numbness. Often there is guilt or shame. Some victims hide their injuries or make excuses for the abuser.

Most devastating to our community: “Studies show that violence is learned behavior,” says Nicole Linder, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center.

Ending the Cycle of Domestic Violence

But this abuse isn’t limited to battered women and children. It can also involve controlling a partner — where they go, who they see, and denying access to family money.

“For people that are in an abusive relationship, those controlling patterns and behaviors, along with the psychological abuse and emotional abuse and even the physical abuse, become normalized to where that’s all you know. And you get used to it,” Linder says.

That is why Marjaree Mason focuses on ending the cycle of violence and emotional abuse as quickly as possible.

Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp

“When we stop the cycle by intervention, education, counseling, protective orders, incarceration or placing the victims in a DV shelter, we never know how many of those cases would have resulted in a domestic violence homicide.” — Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp

The center provides a 24/7 confidential hotline (559 233 HELP) and helps victims navigate the legal system. They are the go-to experts for obtaining restraining orders and creating safety plans for people in abusive and life-threatening situations.

In addition to providing a safe harbor, counselors there help victims put themselves back together and point them to building healthy relationships.

“To see everybody in a family get to a spot where they really believe in themselves, to me, there’s nothing greater,” Linder says.

Wrote Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who is a Marjaree Mason Center board member, in a Fresno Bee op-ed in October:

“When we stop the cycle by intervention, education, counseling, protective orders, incarceration or placing the victims in a DV shelter, we never know how many of those cases would have resulted in a domestic violence homicide. We never know if we have prevented the next murder-suicide where the offender also takes his or her own life. We never know if the intervention prevented the offender from killing the children.”

How You Can Help

If you’re wondering about the center’s funding streams, here’s the breakdown. Eighty-five percent comes from the government. That means 15% of the center’s total $6.2 million budget is from private and family foundations, fundraising events, and people like you and me.

A donation to the Marjaree Mason is one of the best investments you can make in our community — for today and the future.

Click on this link, like I did, and support a local group that is always there for people in crisis.

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