Bethesda House hopes to offer shelter, support

Published 2:47 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

Most victims of domestic violence need the same three things, Bethesda House Executive Director Mona Pineda said Tuesday.

Pineda spoke to members of the Covington County Quilt Guild, who raised $2,195 for the organization at their quilt show this past fall.

“When I talk about domestic violence, I could give you a bunch of information and statistics and it is just dry and it means nothing,” Pineda said. “When I tell you a story about a person, it becomes real and you understand the meaning.”

Susan was 54 when she called the domestic violence shelter where Pineda was working.

“For the last 10 years, her husband, who was a well known and well-respected surgeon, had been beating her up in his sleep,” Pineda said. “She would wake up in the morning and have black eyes, bruises and whelps all over her, but he would deny it.”

But he also behaved badly in his waking hours.

“Another thing that he would do is control all of their money,” Pineda said. “He raped her frequently and had several affairs. When she called (the shelter), it was very coincidental, because I never answered the phone, but I answered this time. I was also a 54-year-old woman who had just come out of a relationship very similar to that. I was the person for her to talk to.”

A lot of women who are abused don’t know how to say it out loud, Pineda said.

“The day that she finally called and finally got the courage to leave him, the threats and the danger started to get worse,” Pineda said. “Because he is doing whatever he can to pull her back in.”

The day that Susan called the shelter, she needed three things.

“She need a good counsel, an advocate and she needed a safe place,” Pineda said.

Miranda’s abuse was different, but her needs were the same. She sought help when her boyfriend started making crude comments and gestures around her 13-year-old daughter.

“When that start happening, it made Miranda wake up,” Pineda said. “It made her realize all of the ways that he had been abusing her for years. He would do things like burn her with wires, beat her up, hold a gun to her head and make her play Russian Roulette. Since she loved him, and she really did love him, she kept taking him back and believing that he was sorry. It was a wake-up call for her when he started coming after her daughter.”

When Miranda knew that she had to get away and have a restraining order, the threats and danger escalated for her as well.

“The boyfriend would brutally punish her for even trying to leave,” Pineda said. “It landed her in I.C.U. She needed those same three things Susan needed.”

Evangelina’s story was more complicated because she had come to the U.S. from El Salvador illegally.

“She came to this country illegally, but she came to this country to get asylum to get away from her brutally abusive husband,” Pineda said. “She was afraid to go to the police because she thought that they would just send her back. Then her husband would be able to keep on doing the things that he had done to her.”

Evangelina’s husband followed her to America and was stalking her everywhere.

“He was stalking her at work, texting her with threatening messages and he would go to work and leave messages on her car,” Pineda said. “So you could imagine, for her to go to the police was terrifying.”

Pineda said that when Evangelina called the domestic violence shelter, they could give her everything she needed.

“We could offer her those three things,” Pineda said. “Counsel, an advocate and safe shelter.”

Bethesda House has been working to be in a position to provide those three things to local women who are like Susan, Miranda, and Evangelina.

“We want it to become a place where a Susan, Miranda or Evangelina and other women like them can come,” Pineda said. “But we can’t do that by ourselves. There is me, a great board of directors and people in town that support us, but we need friends to walk alongside us.”

Pineda said that they have a renovated house to use as a shelter, but they need to furnish it. 

“We have a beautiful yard, but it needs a garden and beautiful places to reflect,” Pineda said. “We have a great kitchen, but we need dishes, cookware, silverware. So, we need to know that people are with us. We need to know that people are praying for us and cheering us on. Another thing we need are volunteers to take crisis calls, to organize donations, to stay overnight in the house, to be E.R. advocates, to be court advocates, to be advocates when women come into the house. This is real.”

Bethesda House hopes to open to clients this summer, Gamble said.