Peg Coleman would love to be out of a job. But after 35 years on the front lines working on domestic violence and other social issues, the new director of the Tukwila-based Domestic Abuse Women’s Network still has far too much work.
“Domestic violence is an epidemic. The research shows one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, one in seven men,” she says.
And it impacts people from all walks of life. From the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder to the wealthiest of people, Coleman says it is a problem that touches all communities. That’s why the organization has developed and offers a number of different services and programs, from counseling to emergency shelter.
“We have a very extensive education program, we do group support either for the victim or families, we do children’s groups because children are very adversely
affected by witnessing violence,” she says. “We’re not trying to fit people into a model that we have. We’re trying to create services that say tell us what you need, and let us try to meet that need where you’re at.”
DAWN operates the only emergency, confidential shelter in south King County, providing shelter on average to 12 families a day escaping potentially lethal situations at home. Often, they are forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their back.
While usually thought of as a punch or slap, domestic violence is any pattern of physical assaults, threats, and coercive behaviors used to maintain control over a current or former intimate partner, Coleman says. It includes ongoing verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, psychological, and economic abuse, and typically gets worse over time. And it can turn deadly.
“Domestic violence homicide is the most predictable form of homicide and that’s really the most lethality that women have. If it’s predictive, you can prevent it. You can do more to prevent it,” Coleman says
One of the challenges facing DAWN and victims of domestic violence is a cultural resistance to talking about it.
“There’s been a long history in our culture of saying ‘What happens in the family stays in the family and it’s nobody else’s business.’ But what we know it’s everybody’s business,” she says.
Many victim’s are afraid to ask for help because they are afraid advocates will force them to leave their homes. But Coleman insists the experts who staff DAWN’s 24-hour crisis hotline don’t have an agenda and just want to help.
“We don’t make decisions for people. We really want to empower them with information so they can make the safest choice for themselves and their family,” she says. “Call our number, just talk. We’re not asking you to get out. We just want you to know you’re not alone.”
DAWN is seeking to increase prevention programs along with providing its other services. But funding is extremely limited, so the organization is dependent on donations to help expand its offerings.
“We would rather do a prevention model than an intervention,” she says. And maybe one day Coleman’s dream of being out of a job because she’s not needed will come true.
The stations of Bonneville Seattle, The Seattle Seahawks, Les Schwab Tire Centers and Carter Subaru are proud to honor the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network as our charity of the month.