New shelter expands Domestic Violence Services’ ability to help

The front-page story began this way: “Oscar Garcia-Pacheco on Thursday quietly admitted that he murdered his wife, stabbing her 19 times as she tried to hand him a court document that ordered him to stay away from her.”

It was an Aug. 1 Herald article about a man’s guilty plea in the deadly attack on Jacoba Ramirez-Rodriguez. The article ended this way: “In Washington, roughly half of all domestic-violence homicides occur when the victim is trying to leave the relationship.”

Since 1976, the agency that is now Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County has worked to save lives and prevent the kind of horror 34-year-old Ramirez-Rodriguez suffered on a Monroe sidewalk in 2013.

“We’re now the largest shelter in our state, and in Snohomish County the only emergency confidential shelter,” said Debra Bordsen, development director for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.

At the recent Hope Within Luncheon, an annual fundraiser for Domestic Violence Services, supporters of the nonprofit were updated on the organization’s mission and new shelter. Hundreds of people at the July 24 event in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Everett’s Comcast Arena learned that the 52-bed shelter, which opened in late 2013, is more than double the size of the group’s former shelter.

The old shelter, in an Everett house, had just 15 beds. The new facility, which also houses the agency’s service center, has more than doubled the capacity to serve people seeking shelter from domestic violence.

In June 2013, at the old shelter, the agency logged 430 bed nights, Bordsen said. This June, that number had grown to 905 bed nights. On one day in late July, there were 10 mothers and 24 children among those staying at the nearly full shelter.

“We have been full, with every bed taken,” said Bordsen, adding that the average age of a client is 35. “We do have grandmothers here. The usual age is 18 or above, but we have occasionally had a 16- or 17-year-old,” she said. Teens have been allowed to stay without a parent if they are pregnant.

“Once they come into the shelter, our job is to reconnect them with families and services,” Bordsen said. “We help get them job training and medical attention. Sometimes there is alcohol or drug abuse, and they need treatment.”

In addition to the shelter, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County also provides transitional housing in 20 apartments leased by the agency, with sliding-scale rents; legal advocacy, including help with protection orders and criminal or civil processes; children’s counseling and support; and free, confidential support groups that meet throughout Snohomish County.

Providing safety has always been its mission, but in its nearly 40-year history the agency has evolved and seen several name changes. It was launched in 1976 as the Women’s Survival Center of Snohomish County, and by 1978 had been renamed Stop Abuse. Support groups and children’s services were added by 1980. In 1981, an emergency shelter opened.

Programs were added, and in 1991 the agency became the Snohomish County Center for Battered Women. The New &Again Thrift Shoppe, at 3116 Rucker Ave. in Everett, has been in operation since 2003, raising money to support the agency’s services. Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County became the new name in 2008, the same year a capital campaign was launched for the new facility.

“Domestic violence is nondiscriminatory. It can happen to anyone,” said Jeff Olsen, a longtime member of the agency’s board of directors, at the recent luncheon. “Your support enables us to do what is right for our community,” he told the crowd, adding that domestic violence robs victims of self-esteem and dignity.

Domestic violence also claims lives — dozens in our state each year. The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducts an annual Fatality Review of deaths linked to domestic violence. The study’s total — 35 in Washington in 2013 — includes those killed by partners or ex-partners; friends, family members and children killed by abusers; and homicides and suicides of abusers.

In a somber tribute, state Sen. Marko Liias, a 21st District Democrat from Mukilteo, was at the July luncheon to read victims’ names, just as he did at the event in 2013. A hush fell over the ballroom as people heard about Nataliya Vabishchevich, stabbed 72 times in her Bellevue apartment, Ike Scarborough, who died of a beating in Whatcom County, and many more.

At Domestic Violence Services, Karen McKeen sees hope and progress. The agency’s deputy director of services, McKeen said that in the larger facility, families have their own bathrooms. There are separate indoor spaces for teens and younger children, an outdoor play area and a youth center.

McKeen said that former client keeps in touch with the agency. The woman has said Domestic Violence Services changed her life. After about two months in the shelter, she was helped to find housing and a new career.

“She literally turned it around,” McKeen said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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