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An open door to safety for domestic violence victims

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and The Open Door Network recognized this with a "Light the Town Purple" event last week in Wasco. The organization is based in Bakersfield but serves smaller communities throughout Kern County, such as Wasco, Shafter, Delano, McFarland and Arvin.

"We know domestic violence is happening in our rural communities," Director of Client Services Ilene Parra said, "One of the things that I've recognized in Wasco and other surrounding areas is that it's very cultural."

"We have a lot of men and women who are very committed to their spouses, and they may find it difficult to understand that the abuse in the relationship is not okay," she said. "We really wanted to target Wasco and bring light to other surrounding areas to remind them that there are services provided and that those services are free and confidential."

"Domestic violence awareness month is important so people can know that domestic violence, and what we are talking about specifically, is intimate partner violence, is that it thrives in silence because we are taught to not speak about it."

"The more we bring light to the situation, the more we break that silence, and it's important to know that your partner and your home are always supposed to be your safe place, and abuse is never okay."

The Open Door Network was formerly the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. It is a nonprofit agency that provides services to victims of domestic violence.

They provide restraining orders, housing services, adult and child therapy, emergency shelter and childcare.

There is also a 24-hour hotline (661-327-1091), so, at any time, anyone needing services can call and get the assistance they may be desperate for.

The 24-hour hotline staff is crisis trained and trained with community resources to direct any caller in the direction they need.

Parra said domestic violence is common.

"The most recognized form of domestic violence is physical abuse, but domestic violence can also look like name-calling to belittle you, intimidation to cause you fear, isolation to make you feel alone, extreme jealousy to make you think it's because they love you, and unwanted sex."

"We identify those as forms of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse in intimate partner relationships. I think that is where people can get confused or maybe think they are not a victim of domestic violence because it's not that extreme physical abuse happening."

Parra said domestic violence can happen to anyone, and it doesn't matter your race, gender, income or education level.

"We are helping those that enter our doors to reimagine their lives. What that means for our victims of domestic violence or survivors of domestic violence is seeing that opportunity of a second chance and an opportunity to live a life free of violence."

She said their services are crucial to a victim's recovery because they provide the support and care that a victim needs even after they leave the relationship.

"Healing from the trauma they experienced in the relationship is not easy; even if it feels at that moment you are leaving, and you are getting that safety, you still have to deal with that trauma."

Parra added that that is where their services come in. "We not only provide services for the immediate need, we are also there for the after, through our therapy services for adults and children."

She said that victims of abusive relationships can live in fear for many reasons. "In our work, we see victims afraid to leave because they are scared of their partner, and they know what they are capable of doing."

"We know that victims fear living on their own because their partner may have been their sole financial provider. It's the fear of living in the unknown, raising kids alone and finding employment if you don't have an employment history. That could be a challenge."

In particular, she said, some undocumented victims may fear being deported or report anything because they think it could get them in trouble.

Another fear, she said, is with children. "They are afraid that their children will be taken away because their abusive partner may have told them they will take everything from them."

Parra said they are part of the healing process. "Once someone walks through our doors, they see a case manager, and when they are ready, they can receive the therapy services to heal from the abuse."

There is hope. "Anything learned can be unlearned. We're teaching healthy habits and healthy family dynamics," she said.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any form of domestic violence, The Open Door Network is here to help. Find them on their website at or call 661-322-9199.


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