Group supports domestic violence victims

October 14, 2010 (DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.) October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Anger that explodes like a volcano. Pictures show a faceless self portrait, symbolizing a lost soul. They're drawn by children who have witnessed domestic violence. Often times, the victim is mom.

"He can vividly explain to me, 'I remember seeing your blood on the wall, mom. You on the floor," a domestic violence survivor identified as Deanna said.

It's been six years since Deanna escaped a marriage, she said, that turned violent. She took her three young children with her. Her oldest is now 12.

"He still remembers," she said.

And Deanna is hardly alone. Statistics show one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And it's not just physical abuse.

"They'll call us and say he didn't hurt me, but he watches me. It's about power, control trying to keep that person in a relationship with you," said Karen Kuchar, executive director of Family Shelter Service, which is an emergency shelter in DuPage county for victims of domestic violence.

Last year alone, their hotline answered nearly 8,500 calls. Domestic violence is a silent epidemic.

"Sometimes, they feel like they can never get out. They have children, he may have said, 'If you leave, I'll kill the kids. I'll fight you for custody," said Kuchar. "Sadly, what we see are the tragic endings."

The Hollywood producer suspected of killing his wife in Mexico, the college lacrosse player accused of killing his girlfriend after they broke up, and the Bolingbrook sergeant charged in the death of his third wife-- his fourth wife disappeared. Law enforcement considers domestic violence calls some of the most dangerous.

<>But behind the headlines are millions of women who live with fear daily, like a domestic violence survivor named Brenda.

"I was just being harassed and stalked. Finally, I was so scared," she said.

After planning her escape for almost a year, Brenda finally took her two young sons and went to Family Shelter Service.

Leaving is not as easy as it sounds.

<> "You're made to feel like you're crazy. It's pretty standard in abuse, but the thing is you're never really sure you're not losing it," Brenda said.

"One of the key things is isolation. He may have kept her from family or friends. So, she doesn't feel like she has anyone to talk to," said Kuchar.

At shelters like Family Shelter Service, there is counseling for adults and children-- someone to walk you through step by step. Outside the building, there is a newly designed garden, a place for children to heal in nature.

Months after arriving at the shelter, a self-portrait a girl once drew without a face looks much different. Those who found a lifeline there are sharing their stories hoping to save someone else.

"I made a decision to invest my life in something that would give somebody else a chance to live because I didn't think I would ever get that," Brenda said.

If you are moved by the women and children's stories, here's how you can help. Family Shelter Service is having their annual 5k run and walk Sunday in Downers Grove at 8 a.m. All proceeds support programs offering hope to victims of domestic violence.

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