ROTONDA WEST — In 1981, at the urging of her daughters, Mary Darling left an abusive relationship behind after 16 years of suffering.
In a cruel twist of fate, in 2003 one of her daughters would become the victim of a murder-suicide at the hands of Darling’s son-in-law.
Darling has worked to raise domestic violence awareness ever since.
Representing the Punta Gorda Woman’s Club, she told her story Thursday at the Rotonda West Woman’s Club.
“When my daughters asked why I stayed is when I realized I had to leave my husband,” she said.
According to the United Nations Study on the Status of Women in 2000, a woman is battered, usually by her domestic partner, every 15 seconds. Getting out is not always a simple matter of just walking away.
At the presentation, Darling said women are 75 percent more likely to be killed by their partner if they leave an abusive relationship.
After urging their mother to leave her partner, both of Darling’s daughters ended up in abusive relationships. Darling said she and her surviving daughter are now both happily married and in healthier relationships.
She said she does occasional speaking engagements about her experiences, but feels more needs to be done.
“There is more awareness now, but it’s still a slow process,” Darling said. “Not enough is being done for domestic violence.”
Darling said the Rotonda West Woman’s Club is part of the Englewood CARE Community Action Team to ensure and sustain victim services. The resources available now, she said, weren’t available in her time of need.
Representatives from the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies were also on hand Thursday. C.A.R.E. provides a variety of services for victims of domestic violence.
“We’re looking to raise awareness for victims,” said Kay Tvaroch, chief operating officer at C.A.R.E. “Less people are coming to the shelters because of outreach programs.”
Much of C.A.R.E.’s resources is dedicated to outreach services, but it also operates a shelter in Charlotte County.
“The primary problem for abuse victims is they feel like they can’t leave their home with their economic instability,” Tvaroch said. “No matter the case, we can work out a plan. We have outreach services we can provide where we talk, help people move, pursue legal options and provide counseling.”
C.A.R.E. primarily works in Charlotte County, but will service Englewood on the Sarasota County side as well.
“We’ll refer Sarasota County victims to the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, because they have more resources,” Tvaroch said.
For more information on C.A.R.E.’s victim services center, call 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465.
For more information on Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, call 941-365-1976.