Domestic violence survivor hopes her tale helps others

Gathering outside YWCA aimed at raising awareness

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

Domestic violence by the numbers

In the U.S., a woman is beaten every 15 seconds.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S., more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

78 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide (nearly eight out of ten) reported an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse.

62 percent reported that young women, ages 12 to 24, are requesting help in greater numbers.

92 percent of shelters had to end or scale back specific programs and services.

Source: The Mary Kay Truth About Abuse Survey and the City of Vancouver

Those driving down Main Street in Vancouver past YWCA Clark County will see a string of purple lights hanging from the building as a silent tribute to the struggle against domestic violence.

The lights will stay up throughout October, representing those who have died, survived or simply want to end domestic violence. Thursday evening, advocates gathered to support these people and raise awareness about the growing problem of domestic violence.

Sharon Pascoe, 33, told her story of abuse in front of the estimated 60 people who attended the event.

She had kept quiet about her mother's abuse growing up.

"I never learned how to deal with what happened in my childhood years," she said.

The abuse started when she was 5 years old. Pascoe's father beat her mother and wouldn't allow her to work, have a driver's license or go anywhere. Pascoe hid under the covers at night when she heard her mother screaming, begging for help.

He beat Pascoe's mother in front of her and her siblings. If he found out they had played outside, he beat her. He would threaten to burn the house down and kill them.

"There were no pleasant times that I can remember while he was there," she said.

Pascoe's mother would hide under her bed at night as he ran around the house in a rage. When he found her, he would drag her from under the bed and beat her head through the walls.

Her mother claimed time and again that they would leave and move somewhere else. Pascoe would tell her classmates she was going to move, only to be embarrassed when it never happened. Her mother had no money, no independence and no way to get out. Pascoe was later abandoned by both her parents. She and her siblings stayed in the house until all of the food was gone and then dug for worms in the backyard.

At one point, Pascoe said, they found two dimes in the couch cushions, brought them to a church at the end of the street and put the dimes in the collection plate. But the children said nothing and received no help. Maybe God would help them, Pascoe's sister said.

When Pascoe was 7 years old, her parents divorced and her father won custody. She tried to be away from the home as much as possible by filling her life with activities. Softball, basketball, band, youth group. When she was 14, however, Pascoe was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She met the future father of her children when she was 15. They ran away together and had their first child, Austin, when Pascoe was 16. At 19, she had her second son, Jonah.

She married him. He didn't allow her to talk to friends or look at people who made him jealous. It felt like her childhood all over again. She wanted to leave but didn't know how.

"I was completely stripped of my self-worth and value," she said. "I felt like I had no rights anymore."

By this time, her father had disowned her and her mother had become a heroin addict. When her oldest son started using drugs and alcohol with his dad, she decided to seek help from the YWCA. When she came to them in July, they supported her, educated her and helped her leave her past life of abuse.

They also helped her speak up.

"I know it's right in my heart," Pascoe said.

New job, college plans

After Pascoe told her story, she said she was surprised at how she kept going and kept revealing things to all these people about her past. She has found a new job and plans to attend Clark College in January. She hopes to help other teen moms and victims of abuse.

Her oldest son, now 16, is 90 days sober and is in juvenile recovery court. Both of her sons attend high school.

One of the lucky ones

Pascoe is one of the lucky ones — she survived domestic violence. There have been 12 domestic violence-related fatalities in Clark County in the last year, according to YWCA.

Those who have died from domestic violence in Clark County were honored with a candlelight memorial and moment of silence Thursday night in front of the YWCA. Red plywood cutouts of these victims will be displayed around the county. One reads Bonnie Falkins, age 50. Murdered Oct. 18 in Vancouver. Bonnie was shot by her boyfriend, who then shot himself.

The YWCA is encouraging community members to put up purple lights outside their homes in support of domestic violence awareness.

"Domestic violence is unacceptable and has no place in our community," said Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters at the event.

The YWCA received a Hopeline wireless grant in January and recently won a second grant for its SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program. The Mary Kay Foundation also awarded it a $20,000 grant to be used as the YWCA's shelter.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.