EUGENE, Ore. — Sunshine Church tears up as she remembers reading a poem her teen daughter wrote for a school project. The words were simple, but powerful, written after the girl watched her mom suffer years of abuse:
“Passed down from mother to daughter.
Normally beaten by father.
You observe and see then eventually will be beaten from head to toe with no place to go.
Your kids are there to see it all.
As they start crying, you start lying.
But how far will you go?
Will death be his last show?”
“I know when I read it, my heart dropped,” says Church. “That was probably the moment that I just knew. I realized: this is just too much and he is never going to change and rehab wasn’t going to work. I just needed to get out.”
But how? Sunshine had endured abuse and injuries at the hands of her husband Sidney Newton for years.
“I didn’t really know where to go,” says Church. “I felt really lost at that moment.”
She found her way to Womenspace.
“These people, they really want to help you,” she says. “They really care. And there is a way out. The abuse that you’re enduring is not just affecting yourself. It’s affecting your children and it will cycle down if you don’t do something to change it.”
“It’s really important and it does definitely change the future,” says Peggy Whalen, executive director of Womenspace, about her agency’s work. “Because we know if we intervene with those kids at that moment in time, that hopefully they’re not going to grow up to either be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence and that’s what we want to see.”
That’s what local Rotarians want to see too, the reason Womenspace was selected to be a part of the year’s Great Rotary Duck Race.
“I think if there was more people who knew there was a system here to support them like that then they would be willing to step outside of the relationship and really see that the grass is greener on the other side in this case,” says Church.