BRENTWOOD—Pat Butler is the Director of Sojourn Services For Battered Women And Their Children. The venerable organization recently joined with fashion icon Guess to not only bring awareness to domestic violence, but to help fundraise for Sojourn, which benefits women and children in our area who need their services. Guess, has created a special-edition T-shirt to raise awareness about this often-taboo issue, with 100 percent of the proceeds from T-shirt sales going directly to benefit Sojourn. The T-shirts made their debut at a star-studded launch party hosted by Sojourn supporters, actress Vanessa Marcil and fitness guru Jillian Michaels, on October 13, at Guess’s Hollywood and Highland store.
Domestic violence is one of the most serious public health and criminal justice issues facing women today. Nearly 1 in 4 American women are victims of domestic violence, increasing the demand for organizations such as Sojourn Services for Battered Women and Their Children, a project of Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC). As the need for supportive services grows, ever-present budget cuts threaten the very existence of programs like Sojourn.
Sojourn’s Director Butler, recently spoke exclusively to Canyon News about the organization and the work they do to help women and children in our community.
Q-How did the launch party go last week, Pat?
A-“The launch party was a huge success. Vanessa Marcil, who (while not an official spokesperson for Sojourn) is a longtime supporter of Sojourn, who has done many fundraisers for us, was there along with Jillian Michaels. Also in attendance were Andy Garcia, Alison Sweeney, Holly Robinson Peete and other celebrities. The Marciano family, Guess founder Paul Marciano, Kymberly Marciano-Strauss, and their daughter, Ella Marciano, the 16 year old designer of the ”˜Love Tank’ were there. Paul Marciano announced he was giving all $24 from each shirt sale to Sojourn and that this was the start of many projects. In addition to the fundraising aspect, this event is huge publicity which will help Sojourn raise additional dollars but, more importantly, will help victims find us so that we can help them. Guess has given Sojourn the best gift we could ever hope for. The company threw itself wholeheartedly behind this campaign. In economic times, as desperate as these, charities rely on help from such influential friends.”
Q-In our area, people don’t give a great deal of thought to domestic violence, because it’s considered an affluent area. Is this the case? And has the current economic climate caused more cases of violence?
A-“Domestic violence crosses all socio-economic lines and definitely can be exacerbated by stress, and there’s almost nothing more stressful than economic difficulties. So, we know that, very possibly, there is more abuse going on these days, but victims do not necessarily reach out for help, possibly because they are afraid that their only option will be to live on the streets. Domestic violence and child abuse remain the most under-reported of all crimes. Shelters are an avenue, but no one can live in a shelter forever, and transitional housing is harder and harder to find. Battered women generally leave with nothing — no money and just a garbage bagful of clothes. They often have no job, no car and they have children with them. The obstacles to safety are nearly insurmountable. Shelter-based agencies, like Sojourn, are their very best hope.”
Q-Tell us more about your organization and is it a non-profit?
A-“Sojourn is a project of OPCC which has been in existence since 1963 and is the single largest provider of services to homeless and other disenfranchised populations in Los Angeles County. Sojourn was founded in 1977 in response to battered women who were sleeping in their cars overnight at our drop-in center. We operate the second-oldest crisis shelter in Southern California and our Resource Board was founded and chaired for many years by Sheila James Kuehl, former California State Senator and formerly Zelda Gilroy! Sojourn’s services are comprehensive, free of charge, and all are accessed through out 24/7 hotline which is answered in both English and Spanish. Unfortunately, we do not see the need for our services declining any time soon.”
Q-How can people get involved locally?
A-“Sojourn relies on volunteers to help us in this work. Prospective volunteers must complete a 40-hour training which we provide twice a year. After that, there are opportunities to volunteer answering our hotline, facilitating support groups and children’s empowerment playgroups and accompanying clients to court. Those interested can download an application through the website (opcc.net, click Sojourn, click Volunteer) or by calling (310) 264-6646, Ext. 225. Sojourn also is an official charity of the LA Marathon and, this time of year through January, we are seeking people to register to run for Sojourn or register for the 5K. The 40-hour training is not necessary for this, and we also can use a lot of help on Marathon day at our water station. Those interested can call 310-264-6646, Ext. 221.”
Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or knows a victim and is looking for information and assistance is encouraged to call Sojourn’s hotline, 310-264-6644.
Photograph of Vanessa Marcil in Guess T-Shirt Courtesy: Kymberly Marciano