Back to: Ticker
November 5, 2013
Follow Ticker

DVSAC celebrates 35 years


Like many people in an abusive relationship, Jennifer DeRaps became codependent and felt stuck, believing the few good days would last and the bad days would cease.

She tried to leave many times, convinced herself things would improve and stayed for far too long, until she finally sought help from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition.

She never went back, and four years later, she is successful, independent and healthy.

“It was financial, sexual, emotional, verbal abuse … everything wrapped up in one. I was in it for eight years,” said DeRaps. “I tried to (leave) on my own, and I just couldn’t. I kept going back.”

One in four women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault in their lifetime, according to national statistics.

For the past 35 years, DVSAC has sought to help these women through its shelter and services such as education and community outreach.

The organization will celebrate its anniversary this year with a fundraiser from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City.

DVSAC has helped 504 victims of domestic violence and 213 sexual assault victims in the past year, in addition to handling 2,000 crisis calls, said DVSAC Executive Director Gayle Guest-Brown. The organization has helped complete 133 restraining orders and provided about 1,800 shelter bed nights to women and children in the local community, who can stay in the shelter for up to three months. Those in the shelter can also be provided emergency transportation.

DeRaps, who now volunteers with the DVSAC’s Crisis Line, had sought help in other places, including her native Sacramento, but said she did not feel the same sense of comfort and lack of judgment as she did with DVSAC.

“The first moment I walked into the door, I felt like it was a new beginning,” DeRaps said. “I felt like I was at home.”

Before taking that step, she self-medicated with drugs, which her boyfriend had enabled, while he simultaneously controlled every aspect of her life, she said.

“He always made sure I wasn’t fed or didn’t have money, but he always made sure I had drugs, and I’d do it just to feel better,” she said. “It was rough, and unfortunately in that situation, it was harder to quit him than the drugs. You’re always looking for that one good day to make the rest OK, and all the ‘sorries’ come in, and you think it will get better, but no, it doesn’t.”

She visited DVSAC in November 2009 and moved out in March 2010. She has since returned to school, received her Emergency Medical Technician license and is a medical aide at a local elderly facility.

“I always wanted to help people,” she said. “I was with him and trying to help him all the time, and he took it away from me, so I stopped doing it … That was my thing — I wanted to be of service to other people, and now that I got my head on straight, that’s what I do, and I absolutely love it.”

Working in the community

DVSAC provides evidence-based programs, from prevention in schools and the community to intervention, with support from federal and state funding. All services are free.

“As the government pulls back and the pie gets smaller, we get a smaller chunk,” said Guest-Brown. “In the past, we’ve been fairly able to provide these services with government funding, but if we’re going to continue the level of support in this community, we need our community support more than ever before.”

The fundraiser is an extension of that call for support.

The event includes food catered by Kane’s Family Restaurant, beer, wine and specialty cocktails, live music by Paul Ong, and live and silent auctions, including jewelry from Stucki Jewelers made for the event, art from local artist Jerianne Van Dijk, two pieces from the Neighborhood Center for the Arts and a quilt from Peacemakers, Peace Lutheran Church’s quilting club.

The coalition began during a time when domestic violence was not as openly discussed, said founder Judith Pruess-Mellow.

In the late 1970s, victims of domestic violence could visit A Woman’s Place, which offered informal counseling and emergency shelters. Pruess-Mellow donated $200 to A Woman’s Place in memory of her brother, but the organization was unsure how to administer the donation, and she realized the need for something more in the community.

The Battered Women’s Alliance was informally established in 1978 as the beginnings of the current DVSAC.

The group then expanded with support from local Quaker group Grass Valley Friends, to which Pruess-Mellow belonged.

Community meetings were hosted with members of Battered Women’s Alliance and A Woman’s Place and about 50 supporters, including Geri Stout, Herb Dimock and then-Assistant District Attorney Carl Bryan, Pruess-Mellow said.

The bylaws were signed Oct. 31, 1980.

The organization was originally called the Coalition to Eliminate Domestic Violence in Nevada County, which was changed to its current moniker in 1993. Pruess-Mellow left the community in 1981 but stayed in contact through her friend Dimock, who became the chair of the board.

The organization was originally called the Coalition to Eliminate Domestic Violence in Nevada County, which was changed to its current moniker in 1993. Pruess-Mellow left the community in 1981 but stayed in contact through her friend Dimock, who became the chair of the board.

“When you think it started off with a $200 donation … and to have that small effort and vision grow into an organization that has become such a blessing and safe haven in the lives of many people is really something,” Pruess-Mellow said.

The current organizers aim to offer more integrated services for the entire family, as well as pro bono legal services.

“I’d like to be able to offer more wraparound services for the entire family and maybe partner with people in the community in a more integrated way so we can provide a real safety net for those families as they try to make it through this maze called domestic violence,” Guest-Brown said.

She would also like to raise awareness.

“I’d like to see a shift in our community consciousness about domestic violence so people begin to see this as a community issue, not something happens to ‘those’ people but something that is happening around us every day,” Guest-Brown said. “We all have a role in it, just to have open eyes and be more aware about it, more aware of the resources and know that it’s OK to speak out loud about this issue.

“It’s not a deep, dark secret anymore because it’s so prevalent. There’s no point in acting like it’s not happening. It’s a big problem, not just in our community but nationally.”

DeRaps cannot imagine where her life would be without DVSAC.

“I don’t think I would be here. I’d probably still be on the streets or in my former situation,” she said, adding she devised a motivational sermon she tells herself each day.

“My inspirational reminder to myself is that ‘I am not too much, just enough. I’m not a failure. I’m successful. I am not hated. I am loved. I will not be lost forever. I will find myself again. I am only human. To heal, I must breathe, and to survive I must believe. I did it myself.”

DVSAC is located at 960 McCourtney Road, Suite E, Grass Valley.

For information, visit http://dvsac.org or contact 530-272-2046.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


Stories you may be interested in

The Union Updated Nov 5, 2013 02:02AM Published Nov 6, 2013 11:47AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.