Domestic violence survivor shares mission to save lives

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) A new study released by the Violence Policy Center ranks Nevada as number three in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men. With the uncertain times involving sexual misconduct allegations along with October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month…many shelters in our area are almost full. Your help is needed to continue the work helping victims find a way out.

The story of Sylvia Gonzalez's life is not one she shares often. “I remember that time he had slapped me 23 times, because I counted them. I was about 8 or 9 years old when I started being sexually molested by one of the uncles and back then you're a child, you don't know you're being molested,” she describes.

Gonzalez says she's a survivor of not just domestic violence but also sexual assault by a family member. She grew up in an unfortunate environment of abuse as she details watching and trying to stop her father’s abuse toward her mother. “There were locations where I'd have to step in and defend her and then I'd also be hit because I was getting in the middle of the fight."

Gonzalez says it was her past that lead her to the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Reno. She's the Director of Client Services, helping women and men escape just like she did.

“He tried to get the extension cord of the iron and he tried to hit me with that and I had just found out that I was pregnant and I'm like...you know I can't live the same way when we were with my parents...so that's when I decided to leave,” Gonzalez details. She knows that many don't live to tell their stories, as she adds, “We have clients that have been killed by their husbands and that's sad because you wish you could do more for them but it depends on you.”

This non-profit houses up to 25 victims while providing hygiene products, clothes, financial assistance and other resources to anyone in need. The victims pay nothing, thanks to donations and federal and state funds. Alyssa Ropell, Development Coordinator at the Domestic Violence Resource Center, tells KOLO 8, “Our local community drives the success of our programs and services and we really appreciate all of the support that our community has provided over the years." Right now, they're at capacity, organizers tell us. Gonzalez says you play a crucial role. She's now married in the healthiest relationship of her life and says it is her duty to pay it forward, saving as many lives as she can.

To connect with the Domestic Violence Resource Center, visit https://DomesticViolenceResourceCenter.org/

To take a look at the Violence Policy Center’s most recent report, head to: http://vpc.org/studies/wmmw2018.pdf

Many may not know that the Federal Violence against Women Act is set to expire Sunday, September 30, if Congress doesn't re-authorize it. The act spearheads national response to domestic violence, sexual assaults, dating violence and stalking. Many local non-profits like the Domestic Violence Resource Center rely on federal funding to stay afloat. It was signed in 1994 as the first piece of federal legislation addressing domestic violence as a serious crime.