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February 11, 2011 > English class assignment focuses on SAVE

English class assignment focuses on SAVE

Story and photo courtesy of Rodney D. Clark

A group of 10th grade students in teacher Katherine Geers' Honors English class at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont interviewed Rodney Clark, Executive Director of Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE), for their English project.

Clark answered questions in his own words:

SAVE is a domestic violence intervention and prevention agency. Prevention means we try to stop domestic violence before it happens, and intervention means the services we provide after the violence occurs. So what does that mean? What does SAVE do?

SAVE has been around since 1976, about 34 years, and we provide a number of services. Probably the one that most people come into contact with is our crisis hotline. It's staffed 24 hours a day by trained individuals who have gone through a minimum of 40 hours of training in California. In order to provide direct services to victims of domestic violence, you have to go through a certification process. The state has written in law the kinds of coursework you need to get before you can actually work with the victim, and that's either in person or over the phone.

People call in when they're in crisis, or when they want to leave a battering relationship. It might be someone calling on their behalf: a social worker, a friend, a mom, it may be even a child saying, you know, "My mom is being hurt right now-what do you do?"

SAVE has a 30 bed shelter. It's an emergency shelter, and what that means is you can only stay for a limited period of time. You can stay for up to 90 days in our shelter. That's not a long time, but most shelters limit the stay because there are so many people that need the shelter services; we can't keep the people that long.

I'll give you the statistics: In Alameda County, there are 120 domestic violence specific shelter beds and we have 30, so we represent 25 percent of the beds. Annually, law enforcement receives anywhere from 8 to 10,000 calls from victims of domestic violence. And then to top that off, FBI statistics (depending on the study that you look at) say that anywhere from 1 in 6 to 1 in 10 people report, so you can either multiply that 8 to 10,000 by 6 or by 10, and that gives you a better sense of the number of people annually that could be reporting domestic violence but don't. There could be up to 100,000 people that need the services, but there are only 120 beds in our county.

There have been successes that stand out every year. A woman, probably four or five years ago, spoke at one of our events and a college recruiter who worked for Mills College was in the audience. She followed up with our client and arranged a full ride to an excellent college. She came back with a teaching credential, a big success story.

Then there are those stories that stick with me that aren't so good. One is of a woman that came to us on a gurney. Washington Hospital drove her to the shelter in an ambulance. She came in with both legs and both arms broken, because in order to escape the violence, she jumped out of a window and broke all of these limbs. Luckily, she survived with her young boys as well. So that sticks in my mind. How do we get to the point where we're so afraid for our lives?

I have to measure the work in different ways. They can't all be that successful, but what I tell staff is any time someone comes to the shelter, we're keeping them safe. Even if they're there for one day, that's one day that they're safe and they don't have to worry about being beaten or talked down to. If we're on the crisis line with them, they at least know that there's one person out there that's going to listen to them.

You have to measure success in the small increments... but it's hard! It's hard to know for example, tomorrow's Thanksgiving and we're going to be kicking back, right? Eating, hanging out with our friends. But then we've got probably 28 people right now in our shelter who aren't going to be able to do that. They're going to be someplace with a lot of people who have problems and issues. They'll have food, but it's not like sitting at home and chatting it up and relaxing. And it's hard to continue to ask for money year after year, day after day.

A promising thing is that domestic violence is being talked about more than it was 30 years ago, when it was really something that you didn't deal with. Thirty years ago the going thing was, "It's a family issue." Unless someone was bleeding on the floor, they wouldn't do anything. That's really changed and the police are a lot more proactive. They understand; they get it. We are helping to educate officers before they go out and make those interactions. I think that more is known, but not enough.

There's still hope. That's why I'm still doing the work!

Rodney Clark has been working with SAVE since November 1995 and is a member of the Domestic Violence Collaborative of Alameda County and Greater Bay Area Domestic Violence Directors. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Domestic Advisory Council, and the City of Fremont Family Resource Center. His participation in these organizations further represents his commitment to fighting domestic violence. In 2008, Rodney was selected to receive the national Angels in Adoption award by Rep. Pete Stark for his contributions to our community.

SAVE Community Office
1900 Mowry Avenue, Suite 204, Fremont
(510) 574-2255

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