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Wildfires: common threads with DV

Categories: From the CEO

By Madeleine Keegan O’Connell, Chief Executive Officer

As you know, our community has endured loss, trauma and despair as we all grapple with the impact of the October ‘17 wildfires. We have all been touched. The devastating loss of life, as well as both homes and businesses is so prevalent the numbers are staggering. Evacuations, both mandatory and voluntary together with poor air quality and the loss of services including clean drinking water, gas, electric and internet connectivity impacted the lives of every community member.

Through it all one thing remains clear, all of us are vulnerable to circumstances beyond reason which can change our lives in an instant. The sense of heightened anxiety during the unpredictable path of the fires left us fatigued as we awaited news of containment. In many ways, our fire crisis mirrors the characteristics of the ongoing trauma families affected by domestic violence know all too well: Fleeing one’s home to escape harm and leaving behind precious personal belongings is accompanied by the same profound uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Despite the challenges of the fires, YWCA Sonoma County maintained the availability of our 24/7 Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline (546-1234) as well as continuous support of the residents in our 7-bedroom confidential Safe House shelter which was fully occupied before, during and especially after the fire crisis. Loss of power to our A Special Place Therapeutic Preschool dictated its temporary closure but we reopened shortly thereafter where our classrooms and playground are alive with activity. Our Therapy Services Program continues to answer the call of families in need of ongoing individual counseling and support group services in both English and Spanish.

Together we are resilient. Together we are Sonoma Strong.