Janesville68.6°

When home is no safe haven

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Carla McCann
October 2, 2007
— Homes are meant to be safe havens, where families bond and children learn and grow in the embrace of parents’ love.

But more often than many people realize, homes also are private battlegrounds, where husbands and boyfriends beat, rape and intimidate their wives and girlfriends.


Last year, 1,066 women in Walworth County found enough courage to seek help through the Association for the Prevention of Family Violence.


The nonprofit agency is funded by federal, state and county dollars and donations. It has operated in Elkhorn for 29 years, Executive Director Genevra Krahn-Reed said.


To help make the public aware of domestic violence, the association in conjunction with the Walworth County Domestic Abuse/Sexual Assault Task Force decorated the tall pine tree at the corner of Wisconsin Street and Highway 11 with laminated paper teardrops that represent each of the clients served last year.


The art display also is being presented as an awareness project in recognition of October being the national Violence Awareness Month. The teardrops are colored purple and teal, which are the national colors signifying the fight against domestic abuse and sexual assaults.


While the city moved through its daily routine Monday morning, passing motorists glanced at the wind-blown teardrops and the people creating the display.


The city sent a crew of three, including Matt Lois, and equipment from its public works department.


“We wanted to make sure we help here,” Lois said. “Hopefully, we’ll have less (teardrops) to put up next year.”


Among the stories told in the teardrops is that of a young mother, who was sexually assaulted and beaten every day for years by her husband, said Haley Schultz, a crime victim advocate with the Association for the Prevention of Family Violence.


The man also abused the couple’s children, Schultz said.


One of the first things the association helped the woman do was to get a restraining order against her husband, Schultz said.


The association also helped her find financial assistance, counseling for her and the children and the services of Legal Action of Wisconsin.


The woman’s husband has moved out of the family home and she is divorcing him, Schultz said.


For another Walworth County woman, fear of retaliation by a former live-in boyfriend meant years of hiding.


Even after her abusive boyfriend was arrested and jailed, the woman feared he would return and hurt her, said Becky Melito, an adult legal advocate.


The woman received a restraining order, bought another vehicle, got a dog and had new locks installed on her doors. She kept a ladder next to an upstairs bedroom window in case he broke into the home while she was upstairs, Melito said.


Eventually, she even had to find another job because he was harassing her at work, Melito said.


The man had threatened to kill himself if she ever left him, Melito said.


He did.


The woman still blames herself for his death, Melito said.


“She sits and cries,” Melito said. “His suicide was the ultimate form of control.”



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