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Vigil spreads word to stop domestic violence – Panelists discuss the stages, causes and ways to escape abusers at event at the Alex Theatre.

By Natalie Yemenidjian
Published:  Last Updated Friday, October 24, 2008 10:52 PM PDT

GLENDALE — As about 50 women held the stem of lit candles for a vigil Friday night, a woman standing in the back of the crowd held the hand of her 5-year-old son even tighter.

After four years of abuse at the hands of her husband, she said, she escaped to Glendale’s YWCA.

“I was older,” the woman said. “You’d think that nothing like that could happen. But strange things started happening.”

First, he told her to cut off ties with friends. That’s the stage Kathie Mathis, the director of domestic violence programs for the Glendale’s YWCA, called “the walking-on-eggshells stage.” Afterward, Mathis said, abuse can manifest itself in name-calling, in a fist and sometimes in a loaded gun — as was the case in two domestic violence deaths this year in Glendale.

Mathis and three other panelists discussed the stages, causes and ways to escape domestic violence Friday night in the forecourt of the Alex Theatre, in a vigil hosted by Glendale’s Commission on the Status of Women, who partnered with Glendale Arts and the YWCA.

Karla Kerlin, chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, said the event is part of the mission to spread awareness of domestic violence to the community.

“The key is to train every first responder to a domestic abuse call,” Kerlin said.

Within the last year, the YWCA had more than 600 domestic abuse victims knock on their door.

“We’re honoring those who have been victims of domestic violence,” Kerlin said. “And those that have been survivors of it with a moment of silence at the end.”

All of the members on the panel agreed that the best way to get out of a violent relationship is to tell someone, ask for help and then secure a place to stay.

Detective Andrew Jenks, another member of the panel, said the crime is emotionally charged.

“It’s a crime of control,” said Jenks, who works with domestic violence cases on a daily basis.

“The policemen are not social workers,” Jenks said. “We are just fact-gatherers. Our job is to collect evidence in the best way that we can.”

Panel member Leslie Segala, from Peace Over Violence, goes to schools and organizations to talk about domestic violence.

The children she meets don’t always know what domestic violence is.

“A lot of them don’t know what’s going on in the home,” Segala said.

She is amazed at the number of young women who don’t know what a healthy relationship is.

“A lot of these girls say that all he has to do is hit me once and I’m gone,” Segala said. “My job is to never let it get to that point.”

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