This last year the Crisis Center in Calaveras served 341 victims of domestic violence. They provided counseling, accompanied them to court, offered them safe shelter, and helped them navigate the legal system to secure restraining orders. Of the domestic violence survivors served, 167 were women, 59 were men and 115 were children.

Kelli Coane is the director of the Crisis Center and the person who, along with other county organizations, opened the Children’s Advocacy Center here in Calaveras County. In an address to the board of the Resource Connection, she asked them to consider the people behind the statistics.

“I would like to ask you to take a moment and close your eyes and think about the men, women and children in our county who are suffering,” Coane said. “Take a moment to visualize the children who are powerless to change their situations and who are depending on adults, who they don’t know, to make the hurting stop, to fix their parents so that they are no longer angry, and, mostly, to believe them.

“Think about the women and men, who, with their children, must leave their home and go live in a house with people they don’t know because their house is no longer a safe place to be. And now think about having to do that in a small community where the person who is hurting you is well respected and has many friends, some in positions of authority, so you are blamed, made out to be crazy, or a liar, or a troublemaker.

“Think about the single man or woman, trying to raise their family but cannot pay their rent because the person who was paying the rent is now in prison for domestic violence. Think about the elderly person who is living in a broken-down motorhome with no heat because their adult children have taken over their home, and it is no longer a safe place for them to be. All of these stories are in these numbers. These numbers are individuals that you know, that you say hi to in the grocery store, that you see hitchhiking on the side of the road or that you sit next to in church. They will probably not tell you their story because it is humiliating and ugly and the only thing worse, in their mind, is the judgement of their neighbor.”

Last year the Crisis Center served 96 victims of sexual assault.

“Think about the young man who is raped by another man but who is afraid to tell anyone because of the shame and the fear of being laughed at, or worse, bringing shame to his family.”

Last year the Children’s Advocacy Center served 144 children, 86 of them girls, 58 boys, 67% of them under the age of 12. These children had been subjected to domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, even kidnapping.

“I’m not asking you to look at these numbers to depress you, but I want to take a minute to remember what we do here at the Crisis Center and the Children’s Advocacy Center: we help, we rebuild, we support, we educate, and we advocate.”

The public needs to recognize that these people, invisible as they may be, exist and live in our county. These are their stories. They suffer in their homes and on the streets and in the shelters we provide. The public needs to know that they’re out there and that state and federal funds are provided to care for them, and there are organizations that provide that care. Without those funds, these people would have nowhere to turn. Without the people who help them, they’d have no access, no agency and little hope. That hope is provided by people, frontline workers, who have struggled through this last year—and will continue into the next, and the next—to keep victims functioning and to keep them alive. We need to remember that as well.

“And for every person we serve there is a staff member that carries a piece of that story with them and is forever changed by it.”

When we finally get the right opportunity to thank all the people who, throughout this last horrific year have served the poor, the marginalized, the jobless, the demoralized, the hungry, the abused, the old, the sick, the at-risk, the homeless and the victims of physical and sexual assault, let’s be sure to thank them with our most sincere gratitude.

These are the people who have selflessly put their health and even their lives on the line to provide shelter from this storm for the individuals and families whose lives are being swept away by the deluge of multiple crises. And they will continue to do so after the storm has passed. Let’s take the time to find a way to properly thank them with the appreciation they deserve.

Jim Pesout is a retired high school teacher who lives in Mountain Ranch. You can reach him at jpesout@gmail.com.

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