Violence to women is real, and it takes place close to home. Last year alone in Napa, California, the Emergency Women's Service received more than 1,800 crisis calls. Most calls came from battered or sexually abused women.
Aware of this horrific trend, Peggy David, director of Pacific Union College's public safety, launched a bold project called "Project Sweet Dreams." And while it may not stop the violence, Project Sweet Dreams will ensure that abused women and their children have a safe place to stay for the night.
Peggy sent 42 packets to area hotels and motels across the county, asking each to donate a room twice a year for the Napa Emergency Women's Service. This way, women can find refuge even when the women's shelters are full; and according to Lylan Frank, director of the Napa Emergency Women's Service, the shelters are nearly always full.
The victims are usually in imminent danger, and shelters are often the only barrier between life and death. For this reason, all victims must agree not to disclose the name of the hotel nor to contact their attacker. Also, there can be no weapons nor drugs taken into the room. These stipulations, says Peggy, are rarely a problem. "It takes a lot of courage to leave home," she says, "and most don't until they're really ready. To have one full night of sanctuary is so wonderful that most just want to sleep."
Peggy got the idea last autumn while reading an article in a magazine. She was impressed at how someone bravely took the initiative to solicit hotels and motels on behalf of battered women. As she read the article, she thought to herself, I wish someone would start a similar project here.
That started her really thinking. "I said to myself, I should do that. With my position at the college, I might be a credible person to get something started."
She was right. The response to Peggy's Project Sweet Dreams has been gratifying. Five hotels have agreed to help, and more have expressed interest. What's more, Peggy is achieving another level of success: Not only is the project helping women in crisis, but it's also creating greater awareness about the problem.
"The reason why many hotels have been apprehensive about participating in the past is fear," says Peggy. "They wonder, will there be a woman with a black eye walking through my lobby? Will a strange man show up at the hotel with a gun?" No doubt, part of Peggy's success has come in removing those fears.
When asked whether she anticipated such enthusiastic response from the hotels and the community, she said, "Of course. Absolutely."
In the future, Peggy hopes her project will also extend toward battered and abused men. While it is not talked about much, many men also live in the nightmare of abuse and often need shelter.
Peggy's courage should be applauded. She's proof that good things happen when people stop merely talking about problems and start solving them.