Stand Up Placer
by Morgan CásarezWhen counseling victims of domestic violence, Chivas J. Mays draws on her own experiences to heal others. “I’m a survivor, and when I was being abused many years ago, I didn’t have or know of any domestic violence resources,” she shares. “I feel my experience has allowed me to be empathetic, identify the needs of survivors, and allow those that know my story to see domestic violence doesn’t define me as a victim.”
Mays serves as the housing coordinator for Stand Up Placer (formerly known as PEACE for Families), a nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding the lives of domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Placer County. Executive Director Michelle Coleman says that in the past year alone, Stand Up Placer has assisted approximately 2,400 people. Available services include a safe house for battered women and their children, supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence, legal and social services, support groups, and individual counseling for survivors and their loved ones. “Our goal is to provide survivors with the tools and support they need to heal and set a new course for the next phase of their lives,” Coleman says. “We strive to educate Placer County residents about the unacceptable impact domestic and sexual violence has on our families, businesses [and] the community.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), nearly 18 percent of women and one percent of men have been raped in their lifetime. Additionally, one in four women and one in seven men report being the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Volunteer Peer Counselor Chris Lackey has worked with Stand Up Placer for more than two years and says that as a male victim of domestic violence, “My work has assisted me in my recovery by helping others who have found themselves in a similar situation. I have also been told by female victims that they have a better appreciation for male victims and realize that not all men are abusive.”
Ron Lawrence, board president and Rocklin Chief of Police, says he appreciates the organization’s ability to work alongside law enforcement officers as they assist victims in the aftermath of abuse. “For a police officer, seeing a Stand Up Placer Crisis Volunteer show up at the emergency room after a traumatic experience to assist with survivors during the hospital examination and be there during the police interviews is a tremendous part of the system,” he explains.
For survivors like Amber—who is also a volunteer staff member—the ultimate measure of the organization’s success lies in its ability to create real change in their lives. “There is nothing scarier than leaving your whole life and the devil that you know for the devil you don’t,” she says, “but I can tell you that my worst day today is 10 times better than my best day before escaping. It is hard and it is lonely at times, but it is worth it. [My family and I] are now fully self-sufficient and successful, contributing members of the community.”
Visit standupplacer.org for more information.