Amy Birtell knows what it is like to be in an abusive situation at home.
Several years ago, Birtell, now the director of the Clinton Public Library, and her five children left her husband after years of verbal and mental abuse. Birtell said that once she learned her husband was assaulting her children, she packed up their backpacks and the dog, and left at a time when he was away from the home. Birtell said that by this time, he had taken her name off of the bank accounts and had spent all of their savings. She could not access her children’s accounts and did not have any credit cards. The only money she had was what her children had saved up in their rooms from birthdays and other gifts.
Birtell and her children tried to get in a shelter in both Waterloo and Davenport. However, both were full. They were told instead to go stay with her father, who lived close by.
“We were terrified because we were afraid that he (her husband) would find us,” Birtell said of husband, Timothy E. Parker, of Westgate, who pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree sexual assault. According to Iowa Courts Online, he was sentenced in December 2010 to 10 years in prison on each count, to be served consecutively.
Birtell shared her story with the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Thursday as she and YWCA Executive Director Lori Freudenberg explained the YWCA’s domestic violence and sexual assault services, offered since 1978, and the need for them. In previous years, the board has given the YWCA $15,500. Freudenberg asked the supervisors to consider giving the YWCA an additional $20,000 as the county continued its budget discussions.
During a Friday budget work session, the board instead agreed to increase the amount the YWCA receives by $9,500 to a flat $25,000. Supervisor Jill Davisson said that if the board made this increase, the YWCA would need to understand that this might not be a yearly thing. She said her concern is to help the children who are caught in these situations.
Birtell told the board that she and her children may not have survived the ordeal without agencies like the YWCA. Court advocates helped her fill out the necessary paperwork at a time when she was vulnerable and unsure if she could manage on her own. She said her children have suffered a “devastating, devastating trauma” and have gone through a lot of counseling through agencies similar to the YWCA. She added that almost five years after leaving her husband, they still require help.
Freudenberg told the board that one in three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Last year, the YWCA served 626 individuals and 195 families in Clinton County. Freudenberg pointed out that they can only count each person once, so this does not reflect how many people may have used their services multiple times. The YWCA sheltered 171 women a total of 2,458 nights but had to turn away 111 women and 147 children because there was no room in the shelter. Freudenberg added that they responded to 66 sexual assault cases and wrote 230 protective orders.
Freudenberg told the board that with the July announcement from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office that the state would move toward the regionalization model for domestic violence services, the YWCA is trying to continue its services. She said they will lose $256,000 from the Attorney General’s Office.
However, due to some grants they expect to receive, the program will be short about $100,000.