According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, on average, 24 people per minute become victims of domestic violence, rape, or sexual assault.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Robin Mitchell Hee, who now lives in San Luis Obispo, is a survivor of domestic violence. She says before she escaped her former marriage, it looked picturesque from the outside. But inside the walls of her home, it was a living nightmare.
“We were married for 12 years, but I would say it was the last 18 months that were the most intense before I left,” Hee said.
Speaking with Mitchell Hee now, you wouldn’t know what she’s been through. In her former marriage, death threats merely scratch the surface of the nightmare she was living. Not to mention simultaneously doing everything she could to protect her children.
“We had to go to a different house every one to two to three nights mostly because we were being stalked, also because there wasn’t a stable place for us to go,” Hee said.
She says there wasn’t a place like Stand Strong, formerly known as the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo. For nearly 40 years, this organization has offered support through housing, counseling and more to help anyone caught in intimate partner violence.
Hee says when she finally escaped her marriage, some didn’t believe it or didn’t want to.
“When I finally got the courage to leave and stay gone, the people that I thought would be there to help me the most weren’t there,” Hee said.
Kirsten Rambo, the executive director for Stand Strong, says the suspects in these cases can often times be the least suspecting.
“It’s everyday people who commit these acts of abuse,” Rambo said. “The perpetrators are here and they may be wonderful in other settings but this is happening so I would just encourage everyone, when someone shares this with you, start by believing them.”
Stand Strong, along with its sister organization Rise SLO, has helped thousands of people just in this past year alone.
Rambo says the organizations have served 2,000 clients, provided 8,000 bed nights in their emergency shelters, provided counseling to over 700 clients, and received over 1,300 calls on their crisis line.
Rambo says numbers are up, which in this line of work can be a good thing because it means people are getting the help they need.
“This is a time when so many people are feeling empowered to do something,” Rambo said.
There are several events happening throughout the month to promote awareness. On October 15, Dr. Jackson Katz will host a panel at the Embassy Suites on men and the #MeToo movement. On Thursday, October 25, there will be a candlelight vigil at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo to honor those who lost their lives to domestic violence in the last year.
For more information on how to sign-up for that event and for details on other happenings, visit StandStrongNow.org.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violent relationship, please call (805) 781-6400.