According to the NCADV, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Betsy Kohl knows that statistic intimately; and with three daughters and four nieces, she also knows that one of them may be a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
Betsy knows this because she volunteers with WISE, one of 14 crisis centers in the state that works to help victims, and to prevent such violence from occurring. Betsy is one of 20 trained volunteer advocates who field calls on the crisis line after hours. And when the phone rings, “it could be a woman who just needs to share her story with somebody who isn’t judging her, and can listen with empathy.” Sometimes it’s somebody who needs help finding a safe place to stay for the night.
Often it’s a woman who needs more than a sympathetic ear or advice. Betsy will travel to the police station in the middle of the night to meet a woman filing for a restraining order, or to the emergency room to sit with a sexual assault victim. Says Betsy, “they’re often apologetic that I had to come down to see them. We, as women, don’t like to be a burden to anybody. I find myself reassuring them that I’m there because I want to be there and that they are worth it.”
But WISE is also trying to get out in front of the problem by educating the public about domestic violence. Betsy points out that they have programs, “teaching the children what a healthy relationship looks like, what it doesn’t look like, how to help a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship.”
Betsy hopes that “one day I won’t get phone calls, because that means women are safe.”