Victims of domestic abuse have a friend in Carson City. Actually, lots of friends.
Advocates to End Domestic Violence, funded by grants and local donations, provides counseling, housing and support for the women victimized by abusive boyfriends or husbands. Two shelters - with a total of 66 beds - are provided to women and their children while they go through the difficult process of severing ties with their abusers.
Director Lisa Lee said most women who come to the shelter or participate in the five-month program have nowhere else to go.
"We try to get them all the help and all the services they need," she said. "Our goal is to get them self-sufficient. If they are working we need to give them a place to live. If they are not, they may need an address or a phone number."
Starting over can also be too expensive for some women who depend on a man's income.
"The biggest stumbling block for some women is the cost of relocating," Lee said. "It can cost as much as $2,000 just to get started. For a single mom with one child that is going to be hard."
The live-in program gives women time to find work, save money and get ready to live independently. Meanwhile, counseling is provided and the women have a stretch of time where they can feel safe going through the paperwork or other court battles to put their abusive relationships behind them.
Of the women who finish the program, 85 percent do not re-enter abusive relationships, according to Advocates statistics.
Three Advocates workers are available at the county courthouse. They monitor police activity, find victim's names and try to counsel them through the maze of court appearances, paperwork and procedures.
In 1999, Advocates recorded 674 domestic disputes that police responded to in Carson City. In all, 419 arrests resulted, 82 of whom were repeat offenders. So far this year, the Carson City Sheriff's Department has recorded 171 misdemeanor domestic battery arrests and 37 felony arrests. The latter involved substantial injury to the victim.
In trying to tender the victims in the courtroom, advocates performed 1278 court accompaniments in 1999. Advocates helped abuse victims file 457 protection orders and 222 stalking orders.
"Both justice of the peaces (Robey Willis and John Tatro) are very supportive," Lee said. "But it's still intimidating and scary.
"We do about 95 percent of the restraining orders. A restraining order can give a woman peace of mind.
"If you don't have one then the police will look at it differently when they come to your house. And the paperwork can be so complicated."
Even in Carson City, Advocates has difficulty keeping up with the demand created by dysfunctional relationships.
On a typical night this week, 41 women were staying in the emergency shelter. Though the size of the dormitory was increased by 14 beds last year, Lee expects it to be operating at maximum capacity again in about three years.
"The biggest reason people come into the shelter is the kids were affected," she said. "They are reacting to the abuse. That's not going to go away.
"By the time they get to the shelter they have made a tough decision. Most people will do anything to avoid that final step."
The program goes out of the way to accommodate children. For example, Advocates works in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada. The club waives the fee for children over 7.
And those types of savings can be important.
Advocates' scant $600,000 yearly budget is funded primarily from grants and donations. Every staff person works under a grant. There are approximately 14 steady funding sources, Lee said.
Part of that funding comes from the Advocates thrift store, opened two years ago.
The biggest service advocates provides is trying to understand where the victim's are coming from, Lee said. "If this guy was a jerk 100 percent of the time, it would be easy to leave him. If it is only 10 percent of the time, it gets hard.
"When a man loses his temper he can do a lot more damage. I bet we have at least four women a year who have their teeth knocked out."
(To get help: Advocates to End Domestic Violence, 883-7654.)