LifeWire provides assistance in domestic violence cases

Calls for assistance from survivors seeking help dealing with or leaving domestic violence situations is on the rise in King County.

LifeWire is the largest provider of assistance to survivors in the state and focuses on rendering assistance in the county.

According to data provided by the organization, it received 30 percent more calls on its free helpline in 2016 compared to the previous year, and the number of children it has served has increased by 500 percent between 2009 and 2016.

Investigators have reported to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs that they have seen a 60 percent spike in domestic violence cases in Seattle from 2011 to 2015, and that statewide, nearly 40 percent of all homicides are the result of domestic violence.

Representatives from LifeWire said this may not necessarily reflect an increase in actual instances of domestic abuse, but that survivors may be more willing to reach out for help.

Samantha Tripoli, LifeWire communications specialist, said their philosophy is to center victims.

“The most common is probably folks looking to come into our advocacy services, so looking for one-on-one support,” she said. “We’re not ever going to tell folks what to do or that they have to leave in order to access services from us.”

LifeWire serves more than 4,000 survivors every year through a variety of means, including a 24-hour helpline, legal advocacy, housing and domestic violence prevention and more.

One of the most sought after forms of assistance is with housing costs, especially on the Eastside where affordable housing is nearly non-existent for many people.

Doubling down on the high cost barrier for survivors leaving abusers is the fact that many of them were isolated both financially and emotionally by their abusers, Lin Comisioneru, homelessness services manager for LifeWire, said.

“I feel that the pattern I’ve seen more frequently on the Eastside are survivors that are married or in a domestic partnership with a wealthier person,” she said.

Bank accounts are often linked in marriages, which can make separating survivors and their children from abusers more difficult, but LifeWire has systems in place to help them do that.

One of the most expensive services they provide is housing. Even though they are the largest provider of domestic violence services in the state, Survivor Advocacy Services Manager Deidre Evans said they turn away many more families then they can help with securing housing.

“It all really depends on funding,” she said. “We do rely on private donations for almost half of our budget.”

The other half comes from public funding, including from the county, which Evans said has increased in recent years.

Funding also comes from the federal government, but that could be in jeopardy under the Trump administration.

Domestic violence is a large factor in creating homelessness for women and children.

“It’s the cause of a lot of women and children’s homeless experience,” Tripoli said.

Abuse can also be difficult to recognize for survivors experiencing it.

Becky is a survivor who came to LifeWire for help getting out of an abusive relationship. Her last name is not being used in this story for her security.

Becky is a British ex-pat who met her former husband while backing in Australia in 2000. They got married in Britain, but since he was an American, they moved to the Eastside and got a house.

While she said there were signs of abuse while they were dating, Becky said the abuse started in earnest after they were married.

Becky said her husband would control all of their finances and berate her for buying anything on her own, despite the fact they made around the same amount of money at their jobs.

He was also becoming more physically violent.

“He would shove me out of the way if he wanted me to move, I could just be standing at the sink brushing my teeth, and he would want to brush his teeth and he would just shove me out of the way,” Becky said.

Her abuser would also hit their dog.

Years of abuse came to a boiling point one night when Becky was talking about one of her family members who was sick in England. Her ex-husband didn’t want to talk about it, but she pressed the issue.

This enraged him for some reason, and he ended up chasing her down and strangling her.

“I just remember him with his hands around my neck and thinking how did I get here,” Becky said.

She managed to get free and locked herself in a room, but her ex-husband started kicking in the door.

As he stuck his hand through the hole he had kicked in the door to unlock it, he got stuck and Becky pushed past him and started to call the police.

When her ex-husband saw that, she said he broke down and started crying, but by the next day, he was already blaming the assault on her.

After that, Becky said a therapist told her to get ahold of LifeWire.

She said LifeWire helped her not only eventually leave her abuser, but also realize that she was being abused.

“You just normalize it because you don’t want to believe that the person who’s supposed to love you is bullying you in this way,” she said. “…I always knew that something was wrong but I couldn’t really put my fingers on it.”

Becky’s advice for other people who may think they are in an abusive relationship is to simply reach out for help.

“If you even think you’re in an abusive relationship, you should talk with someone, you should trust your gut,” she said.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and LifeWire is partnering with the city of Redmond to host a town talk about Redmond’s response to domestic violence at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Redmond Library.

For more information about LifeWire, visit www.lifewire.org.

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