The full, harvest moon was visible on Oct. 5 when five women walked outside together and down the steps of the San Jose Women’s Club into the night. The women lifted their arms toward the sky, and the illuminated bracelets on their wrists lit up a bit of the darkness surrounding them.
They were beautiful and confident—yet each one was a survivor of domestic violence. They raised their lights against the darkness in memory of the seven Santa Clara County women in 2016 who were not survivors of domestic violence, the seven women who had lost their lives.
The survivors, all Spanish-speaking, had recently volunteered with Next Door Solutions to End Domestic Violence to form el Comite de Mujeres Fuertes—the Committee of Strong Women. Their mission is to support Spanish-speaking women seeking help in escaping domestic violence.
“Domestic violence doesn’t just affect Hispanics. It affects the full range of people, the richest, poorest, every ethnicity,” said Rose Martinez, speaking for the group. “But there are a higher number of unreported Hispanic cases because of (the women) not knowing English well and not knowing their rights.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the women had just attended “Light Up the Night,” an indoor candlelight vigil hosted by Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Santa Clara County’s oldest and largest nonprofit domestic violence service provider.
“‘Light Up the Night’ memorializes these brave women who lost their lives and inspires us, as an organization and community, to re-dedicate ourselves towards attaining the ultimate goal that we all share—to end domestic violence, in the moment, and for all time,” said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Executive Director of Next Door Solutions.
In the U.S., nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Since 1994 in Santa Clara County, there have been an average of 12 domestic violence-related deaths annually.
Colsaria Henderson, Director of Programs for Next Door Solutions, explained that domestic violence is very complex and includes more than physical abuse—it includes psychological, verbal and financial abuse.
“We need to understand that it takes survivors a long time to heal,” said Henderson. “Sometimes they must burn bridges with families. Sometimes it’s not safe to reach out to people they know. It’s lonely on your own.”
“Your cousins, your colleagues, your friends are possibly experiencing domestic violence behind closed doors,” said a survivor at the vigil, who bravely shared her story of physical and financial abuse. “I’m educated, independent and strong and that didn’t matter. I had no idea (at first) it was happening to me. I experienced threats and manipulation.”
“I never would have been able to survive without Next Door. I had no way to navigate the system,” she continued. “I was so close to being one of those we’re lighting candles for tonight.”
Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, headquartered in San Jose, 234 E. Gish Rd., Suite 200, offers shelter, crisis counseling, peer counseling, risk assessment, safety planning, case management, assistance with basic needs, information and referrals, and advocacy with other service providers.
State Senator Jim Beall made brief remarks at the vigil, sharing that his sister is a survivor of domestic violence and received help from Next Door Solutions. Beall has sponsored SB3, a $4 million bond that provides transitional housing funds for victims of domestic violence. SB3 will be on the ballot in the November 2018 election.
State Representative Ash Kalra presented Next Door Solutions with a certificate of recognition for its long service to those experiencing domestic violence. Its website is www.nextdoor.org, and the 24-hour crisis hotline is (408) 279-2962. The hotline received 14,500 calls in 2016.
“Help is only a phone call away,” said Peralez-Dieckmann.