Vicci Hilty (left), executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, at the nonprofit’s new South County Advocacy Center with Debra Bordsen, deputy director of the agency. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Vicci Hilty (left), executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, at the nonprofit’s new South County Advocacy Center with Debra Bordsen, deputy director of the agency. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Abuse victims have a new place to find help in south county

It’s not a shelter, but the Domestic Violence Services site in Lynnwood can point the way to safety.

Encouraging words are on view at a new Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County center in Lynnwood: “Life is tough but so are you,” says a framed sign in the entryway.

A ribbon-cutting, open to invited guests, was celebrated at the site Thursday. The place isn’t a shelter, nor is it a drop-in facility. The new South County Advocacy Center is where, by appointment, people who have experienced domestic violence will be able to take steps toward safety and self-sufficiency.

“About a third of the calls to our support line come from south county,” said Vicci Hilty, executive director of Domestic Violence Services. A south county site has been part of the nonprofit’s plan for five years, Hilty said.

Like the agency’s emergency shelter, the new center is in an undisclosed place. Close to a bus line, it’s a more convenient option for some clients than Domestic Violence Services offices and the shelter farther north. About 45 people — 13 mothers and 32 children — are now staying at the emergency shelter.

With offices and a large meeting room, the new site will be a convenient place to talk with an advocate about housing options, legal issues and the nonprofit’s six support groups. Help provided by Domestic Violence Services is free and confidential.

Distance — how long it takes to get to a meeting place — can be a big barrier for someone living with the risk of domestic abuse. “Being at a central point in south county, it’s one less thing to worry about — having to explain where they are for such a long time,” said Debra Bordsen, the agency’s deputy director.

A flier available from the nonprofit, “Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone,” offers a glimpse of the terror behind closed doors in some homes: Jealousy, controlling behavior and isolation are warning signs. Advice includes creating a safety plan, having a bag packed and cash set aside, and in an incident avoiding rooms with only one exit and staying out of the kitchen.

The South County Advocacy Center, which is in leased space, is supported by a three-year grant from the Verdant Health Commission. A program of Public Hospital District No. 2, Snohomish County, Verdant operates a wellness center and works to improve the health of people in south county. The total grant will be $288,000, spread out over the three years, Bordsen said.

Gina Loh works as a prevention educator and in community outreach for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. Encouraging words greet visitors at the agency’s new South County Advocacy Center. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Gina Loh works as a prevention educator and in community outreach for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. Encouraging words greet visitors at the agency’s new South County Advocacy Center. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

There were refreshments, tours, public officials and law enforcement leaders at the new center Thursday.

Jennifer Taylor, a supportive housing case manager with Domestic Violence Services, was at the new site Monday.

“We help people who are ready to leave the shelter. I just had somebody who more or less graduated from the program,” Taylor said. The woman, a young mom with a preschool-age child, spent three months at the shelter. English was not her first language.

“We met weekly. By the time she left, she had employment. It wasn’t easy, but she’s becoming self-sufficient,” Taylor said.

Domestic Violence Services helps hundreds of people each year. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, 138 adults and 235 children found safety in the shelter. More than 60 adults and 143 children were helped to transition from homelessness to permanent housing. Nearly 190 attended support groups. And more than 3,000 calls came into the 24-hour support line.

The agency serves people who have left relationships and those still living with abuse. The agency offers prevention programs, too.

Gina Loh works as a prevention educator with Domestic Violence Services. “Kids ask great questions,” said Loh, who presents programs at schools. Dating violence and psychological abuse are among topics she covers. In the past year, more than 11,000 teens heard those messages.

“It’s great helping people who have been in trouble, but we also want to prevent trouble,” Bordsen said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-387-5195; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

How to get help

Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County provides free and confidential services, including an emergency shelter, legal advocacy, support groups and domestic violence education. For help, call the 24-hour support line: 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873).

Information: www.dvs-snoco.org

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