A history of healing victims of violence

When Raye Lynn Rapoza’s husband intentionally drove her and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter to their deaths off of a Moss Beach cliff in 2002, the crime shook Wendy Miller to her core.

Miller wasn’t simply Rapoza’s friend, but her human resources manager at Hewlett-Packard. Miller realized she didn’t know how to recognize the signs of domestic violence, and wouldn’t have known what to tell Rapoza even if she had.

Today, Miller is on the board of Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse, a private nonprofit that provides comprehensive domestic violence prevention and assistance in San Mateo County. The organization, which celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday at the Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, is reaching out for the first time to the business community, training companies on ways to assist employees experiencing domestic violence.

“Sometimes it’s really simple things like a manager offering an employee a cell phone to keep in contact if they feel in danger, offering flexible work hours to attend counseling or having a security plan if a perpetratorcomes into the workplace,” Miller said.

The outreach is the latest in what has been a series of innovative programs on the part of the nonprofit, which serves about 6,000 clients per year. Aside from offering a 24-hour toll-free hot line, emergency shelter, counseling, legal services and case management, CORA boasts one of the most progressive partnerships with law enforcement in the U.S.

CORA has a daily working relationship with the Peninsula’s 22 police departments and the county Sheriff’s Office. Judy King, CORA’s Emergency Response Program police liaison, said counselors are always available by phone to domestic violence victims contacted by police.

“That means 2 a.m. Christmas morning, we can talk to them, offer them shelter, offer them referrals or help with a restraining order,” she said.

The decadelong program was one designed by both CORA and police, Redwood City police Chief Louis A. Cobarruviaz said.

“Relationship abuse is one of the most difficult crimes to address in the sense that there seems to be no end to it,” he said. “We needed someone to work with law enforcement to provide special counseling or house them somewhere safe.”

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Domestic violence in the county

Domestic violence reports submitted to the District Attorney’s Office by law enforcement:

2007: 1,654

2006: 1,737

2005: 1,814

2004: 1,817

2003: 1,681

Number of domestic violence-related criminal cases filed by District Attorney’s Office

2007: 900

2006: 929

2005: 981

2004: 1,076

2003: 1,093

Sources: San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office

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