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Safe Haven | Open Hearts, Helping Hands

by Kara Pound

Last May, R.C.’s husband asked her what she wanted for Mother’s Day. She told him, “Honestly, all I really want is to create art and to not have to cook all weekend. I just want those two things.” It seemed like a relatively easy enough request.

But when R.C. took to her studio to paint, her husband became enraged and left the house. “I called him to see where he was and he said he was on his way back,” she remembered. “When he returned, he was frustrated and upset with me for ignoring him and making him take care of our daughter and worry about the food.”

The argument escalated and resulted in thrown artwork, physical abuse and R.C. fearing for her life. She called the cops. “I truly felt that he was going to kill me,” she says. “I was so shaken and terrified that I didn’t really want to say anything [to the cops] when they got to the house.”

R.C. refused to allow the paramedics to take her to the hospital because her daughter was asleep – but she promised to go the next day. Her husband was arrested and R.C. was told that he most likely wouldn’t get out for a few days.

After the weekend, R.C. went to the courthouse to file an injunction against her husband. There, she was greeted by a woman from the Betty Griffin Center.

“I sat down and talked to her and just broke down and told her my secret,” says R.C. “Nobody knew what was going on in my life. I didn’t have friends because I had to hide my life. I just stayed in my house and served my family.”

The Betty Griffin Center paid R.C.’s lawyer to obtain the injunction and offered emotional support to help her and her daughter start a new life. Unfortunately, R.C’s story is not entirely unique.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women have been victims of some form of physical abuse by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

“We started as a shelter, but have evolved over the years to offer so many more services,” Malinda Everson, Development Director for Betty Griffin Center, says of the center’s 26-year-long history.

A private, nonprofit agency, Betty Griffin Center offers protection and education for victims of domestic violence and their minor children, as well as, the victims of sexual assault and their families through shelter, counseling and transitional support.

“We have a shelter and outreach services, which include free therapy, a rape crisis unit at Flagler Hospital, transitional housing, support groups, an attorney on staff and two educators who focus on community outreach,” says Everson. “We also work to educate kids on healthy relationships and what domestic violence is.”

With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the upcoming “Run For Peace,” a family-friendly 5K on April 8th benefiting Betty Griffin Center, community involvement is essential to creating a safe environment.

R.C. has come a long way over the past year. Utilizing her military and martial arts background, she’s even started to offer free classes in partnership with St. Johns County Public Library, that focus on self-defense for mothers and daughters.

“I’ve always believed that you don’t hit somebody that you love, and that’s what stopped me from defending myself,” R.C. says. “Then I came to the realization that anybody who loves you, wouldn’t hit you. A caring, nonjudgemental ear made the biggest impact in my life. You have to find the strength in yourself and believe in yourself.”

CONTACT:

Malinda Everson
Development Director
Betty Griffin Center
1375 Arapaho Avenue
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: (904) 808-8544
24 hour Crisis Hotline 904.824.1555
Visit the Betty Griffin House website


This article is sponsored by Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine.