Raising Voices Against Domestic Violence

The "Voices for One. And for All." Project

Building stories for a new DAIS.


**The following segment is republished with the author’s permission from DAIS’ 2014 Winter/Spring Newsletter.

On Wednesday, September 4, 2013 my sister Megan Lanning was murdered by her soon to be ex-husband who subsequently took his own life. After years with a man who worked systematically to isolate her from friends and family, she filed for divorce.  He did not want to dissolve the marriage and was not about to let that happen.

We will never know all that took place in the 18 to 24 months leading up to that September day, but we do know that they were very difficult for my sister.  She endured long rants in her voicemail and abusive text messages.  He broke into her home after they were separated, stealing everything of value including the washer and dryer leaving graffiti on the walls.  With a sledge hammer he destroyed granite countertops and cabinet doors.  He even stole her beloved dog Remo and threatened Remo’s life.  His threats spilled over to my parents, myself and other members of our family so it wasn’t hard to believe he would hurt this beloved pet. 

Megan did not share all the details of this relationship.  So, we continue to struggle to understand all that was going through Megan’s mind.  We know she did not want abuse and torment to rule her life.  Perhaps she thought she could handle the situation on her own.  Maybe it was pride, stubbornness or disbelief that such abuse was happening to her.  Or perhaps her fear for those she loved kept her from reaching out. 

Unlike many women in her situation, Megan had the resources and support to make a change.  She graduated from UW-Madison and was the General Manager for Cost Plus World Market in Las Vegas.  She had family and friends committed to giving her as much support as they possibly could from the time they learned of the abuse.  My mom begged Megan to move back to Wisconsin and leave everything behind.  We feared the worst could happen to her – and it did. 

Now, it is incumbent upon us that we don’t push my sister’s murder into the shadows—then evil wins. My mission is to bring her death into the light so that others can learn and benefit from the ultimate sacrifice she made.  My hope is that others who are victims of domestic violence will seek help That they will take those uncomfortable first steps that are outside of their day-to-day realm and find places like DAIS where they will find help. 

Megan was the kind of person who would wake up every day and strive to be the best person she could be.  She was always there to encourage someone or make the world a better place.  Now it is our job to carry on for her.

Eric Lanning


Laura Groenier has a story engraved in her memory and it affects the work she does today.  Laura owns Silver Leaf Interiors where she “creates interiors for clients that express the warmth, love and safety that clients look for in their home environments.”  But Laura knows that for people experiencing domestic violence, their home life is often chaotic, unsettled and unsafe.  So she has generously chosen to donate her time, talent and furnishings to DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) to create a safe space in their new emergency domestic violence shelter. 

She wanted to contribute to a space will allow victims an opportunity to think clearly about the options that they have and give them a fresh start,” states Laura.  “What a home gives people is serenity that alters our mental state.”  Below you will find the story that began decades ago, as told by Laura.

The summer of 1979 when I was ten, Angel and Billy moved next door to us with their mom and dad.  Angel was bubbly with a twinkle in her eye and a bounce in her step.  Billy was a year or so older with square rimmed black glasses and there was no bounce in his step, Billy was introverted and took a while to warm up to the rest of the neighbor kids.

These were the days of kids playing outside from sun up to sun down.  People came and went in our neighborhood but the kids all formed our own “little rascal” gang of sorts.  We did everything together and we were sure to stick together when things were crazy in our lives and in the neighborhood.  It didn’t take long for us to adopt the new kids into our wandering group and soon Billy warmed up and we were all running together in the neighborhood.

Because we lived right next door we soon found out that when their dad drank things got loud and crazy at their house.  One summer night I was woken by the biggest commotion at their house, our windows were open and because we lived on a cul de sac our picture window was angled toward their house.  That night we were woken by a car revving its engine with kids screaming outside and we all gathered in our dark living room, talking in hushed tones and staying away from the window.  From what we could gather, the out of town relatives that were visiting had been drinking and it turned into a big fight.  The dad decided he was leaving and taking the kids and relatives with him, but instead of leaving he decided to charge the house, with their mom still inside, and his car packed full of his two kids, his relatives and their baby in it. 

As he revved his engine and climbed the slight embankment toward the house in a threatening charge of car versus house, I was terrified for my friends.  The car’s back passenger’s side door was open and swinging with my friends wanting to scramble out, every time the car charged forward the door swung wildly and the kids screamed louder.  The car eventually took off with everyone in it and I wondered where they were going and when they would be back and what was going on. Because I was terrified in the safety of my home, I can’t even imagine being in that car and the terror my friends, Angel and Billy, were experiencing.  The adults talked in hushed tones and we went back to bed and didn’t talk about it again.  I never asked anyone the next day, not my mom, not Angel and Billy (who were both home by then), not the other kids in the neighborhood, I never spoke to anyone about it…until now.

Months went by and other smaller incidents happened but they were so much less impressive to my ten year old self than the one that no one talked about, I felt that it was just normal for them and they seemed to be ok about it.  The moment in my life where I realized that things were not fine came in late fall.  I understand now that Billy took the brunt of the abuse as a child and that’s why he seemed so reserved compared to Angel.

Yelling broke out next door and you could tell someone was in trouble; I was outside playing when Billy ran through our backyard and into the woods.  Angel was not far behind him and encouraged me to come help her find her brother.  Billy sat on a log in the forest with his head in his hands trembling; it was a cold fall day and the tears and snot running down his face must have been cold as well.  He was so scared of his dad, his emotion was raw and he was terrified that his glasses were broken and he would be in more trouble.  It was at this moment that I saw the red marks on his face and neck and it was suddenly clear to me why his glasses had been taped with black tape for as long as I had known him.  Angel and I couldn’t do anything but sit there with him to protect him in the only way we knew how.  To hang out in the woods away from whom he feared most.  We sat there for a long time, until he gained enough mental strength to go home.  I felt completely helpless and without a voice.  They moved soon after this and I never told anyone about what happened because it seemed like there was no one to tell.

I’ve carried those stories with me since 1979 and that is why this cause is so important to me.  I keep thinking, ‘if only there was a place for Angel and Billy’s mom to go, maybe she would have found the strength and resources to make a difference in her and her children’s life.’ I often wonder where they are today and how their life turned out.

“Children are often the silent observers of domestic violence and while they don’t have a voice they certainly have a presence and they carry these experiences into adulthood,” said Laura.  “We are happy to provide our support and help create a safe haven for other families like Angel and Billy’s who need a place to go.  But just as importantly I wanted to share my story in hopes that it might inspire others to share theirs and contribute to a place that will make a difference for those who live without a voice.”


The Madison Community Foundation’s support for DAIS speaks to our goal of “helping good people do good.”  We hope to inspire, support and connect people around philanthropy and community.  We believe that DAIS hopes to do the same thing for women and their families.  Our support for DAIS is to help the organization transform – to build the organization’s capacity through a major campaign, permanent location, and visibility in community. 

Domestic abuse cannot be hidden or kept secret, and by building a permanent building DAIS creates not only a safe haven for families, but also a beacon to guide and welcome the community.  It is also a beacon that shines light on the good work going on at the facility, from short-term care to long-term counseling. The resources provided by the new DAIS facility will have an extraordinary effect on those who pass through its doors, whether they are families seeking shelter, staff providing a path to stability, or donors and volunteers offering their help.

The Madison Community Foundation is proud to be part of such an important community project.


Promoting healthy relationships: MENS program helps prevent abuse

By Anita J. Martin, Contributing Writer  (reprinted from Madison Times)

Dating violence can happen to any teen in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship, but it does not have to happen at all. Thanks to a local violence prevention program, young men are learning more about healthy, respectful relationships, and what they look and feel like.

The MENS (Men Encouraging Nonviolent Strength) program is one of Domestic Abuse Intervention’s (DAIS’) main prevention initiatives. It aims to support young men in their development of a healthy male identity in a society that sends many mixed messages. The program works with high school males, usually over 10 or more sessions that focus on topics like gender roles, communication, and conflict resolution. DAIS staff and school staff co-facilitate the sessions, and they encourage peer leadership.

The current MENS partner sites include La Follette High School, West High School, and Work and Learn Center-Lapham.  West High School’s MENS group plans to present at the statewide summit on healthy teen relationships March 17-19 at Wisconsin Dells.

Looking at relationships, over lunch

On February 13, eight students at La Follette gathered over their lunch hour for MENS group, and welcomed this Madison Times writer to attend.  DAIS Prevention Program Coordinator Faye Zemel started off the session on healthy and unhealthy relationships by asking, “Have you ever been in love?”

Going around the room, each guy took their turn and talked a little about a special relationship they’ve had in the past. One young man said he was in love with a girlfriend of two years, while the others referred to having “strong feelings,” “real strong feelings, never felt that way before,” or really liking someone.

What words come to mind when you think about what is a healthy relationship, and what an unhealthy relationship is like, Zemel queried. In terms of a healthy relationship, the students shared words like faith (“you’ve got to have faith in your partner…”), supportive, loyalty, partner (“…basically, someone who will listen to you and be right by your side”), belief (“in each other, goes with trust”), dependable, respect, honesty, equality, love, being real. 

Referring to equality, School Counselor Calvin Taylor asked what the young men in the room thought about housework and sharing things around the house. School Counselor Amy Schwab got down to the nitty gritty, asking, “Whose job is it to cook?” One person responded that it depends on who wants to; if a person works all day as a cook, they may not want to come home and cook, too. Another young man stressed that “you don’t want her to feel she doesn’t have a say in anything.”

The comment was made that people need to be well rounded: “A woman can teach you a lot of things, but a woman can’t teach you how to be a man.”

Along the way, Schwab posed the question, “Can you respect someone without loving them?” as well as, “Can you be honest with someone without loving them?”

The group also engaged in dialogue about the concept of caring for someone vs. loving someone. “You’ve got to start with liking someone,” one young man stated. “You don’t start out with love.”

Words the young men brought up to describe unhealthy relationships included jealously, cheating/adultery, trying to change somebody, can’t be yourself, feeling uncomfortable, secrets, and trying too hard. 

During the discussion of different ways to act while in a romantic or dating relationship, one young man said, “If you have a sister, treat her like you’d want your sister to be treated.”

Using a handout showing the harmful power and control wheel, Zemel stressed that “dating violence is a pattern of behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” Physical abuse or threats of physical violence are the forms of dating violence that often first come to mind; however, cyber/digital, economic, emotional, and verbal abuse exist as well.  

Multicultural Service Coordinator John Milton and Taylor shared something Taylor experienced earlier that day, and a scenario involving watching a sad scene in a movie, and started a conversation with the guys on the subject of men crying.  One young man said he feels better when he cries and lets out stress, but pointed out that many times people are quick to judge when they see a guy crying.

Another young man indicated that if he saw an adult man crying, he’d think, “Good, because you’re not doing something stupid (instead of crying).”

Milton stressed, “You just don’t know who’s going through what,” from looking at the outside, and gave some ideas of ways to ask a person if they want to talk.

“As an African American male, prepare yourself where you have a group of friends you can reach out to…” advised Milton. “Every person goes through a difficult stage in their life.”

Getting the guys to the group

So how did each of the young men find out about the La Follette group in the first place, and what do they like best about the MENS program or why do they come back? 

Prince stated he didn’t know where he was going the first time he came to the group; he was just following (his friend) Pierre. He enjoys it because it’s “a time to express myself and the things that are really happening in my life right now.”

Like Prince, Greg said he didn’t know what it was about when he first went, and he, too, appreciates having a supportive place to express himself.

Earl said it’s a place where you can talk about things, that if you talked about these same things with friends at lunch, they’d probably laugh and maybe make fun of you.

Tre’nard (Tre’) said he’s attended MENS group since Day 1 when it started last fall, because Mr. Milton told him about it and he trusts him. He likes that they tell true stories about themselves.  “It’s pretty much a big deal to me,” Tre’ added. “I like it.”

Pierre decided to come to the group after Tre’ told him about it. “I already know how to be a man, I know Mr. Milton. I see him as a true man….He can probably teach me how to be a better one.”

Demonterryo (DJ) commented, “We know it (what we say) will stay in the room with people we trust.” Miles also echoed the sentiment that he appreciates that things said stay between the members of the group.

Elijiah, who has been with the group for some time now, said what keeps him coming back is Mr. Milton, “but also, it’s a sense of belonging. What happens outside doesn’t matter, because here you can be yourself.”

After the guys returned to class, Milton commented, “I think what’s really great about La Follette (MENS group) is we all bring something unique, our own perspectives….” 

Zemel said of the team of mentors and facilitators, “We’re always modeling good communication and healthy relationships between adults, which is healthy for them (the young men) to see.”  

The newest MENS program

The Work and Learn, Alternative Education Program just started a west side location in addition to the east side. “What’s unique is all the men at Work and Learn have to go through the MENS program,” Zemel explained. “The other sites (like La Follette) work more like a club, whereas with Work and Learn, we prepare more activities since it’s part of their school work, their school day.”

For more about intimate partner violence and healthy relationships, visit http://www.cdc,gov/features/datingviolence/ or abuseintervention.org, or call the DAIS Helpline 24/7 at (608) 251-4445. 


Below is an article written for the Sun Prairie Star in November 2013.

Chief Patrick Anhalt often faces three major challenges and myths when raising awareness about the issue of domestic violence in Sun Prairie.  In an interview conducted by DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) he discusses these challenges and the ways in which the Sun Prairie Police Department rises above to bring domestic violence out of the shadows.

“In a lot of ways domestic violence is the forgotten crime in the sense that when I’m out and about in the community, either talking with community members in a formal setting or with parents at my kid’s soccer game, people want to know about gangs and drugs, and whether the schools and streets are safe,” said Chief Anhalt.  “Very rarely does the topic of domestic violence ever come up.”

That stands in stark contrast to the fact that up to 20% of the arrests made in Sun Prairie are domestic violence related and if you were to look at the number of calls that percentage would be much greater.

Chief Anhalt believes part of the problem has to do with the fact that domestic violence is often hidden from the public view in the homes of victims and not necessarily in the public eye.

He also sees two common myths, one being that people often ask “Why can’t the victim just leave?”

“When I’m in conversation with people I try to provide some education about how volatile that situation can be for the victim,” states Anhalt.  “They have to be thinking about economic pressures, housing, child custody and even pets.”

The other myth is that “we can arrest our way out of the problem.”  Chief Anhalt reports that it’s difficult at times for people in the community to see the complexity of the issue.

“While intervention is very important, it’s also important to have prevention and awareness as well because if intervention is the sole tool in our toolbox we aren’t going to be successful,” commented Anhalt.

Chief Anhalt and the entire Sun Prairie Police Department take both an individual and global view when addressing challenges and providing support for victims. 

“We want victims to know that we are in it with you.  We are committed to fixing the problem and as long as you need us by your side we will be there,” states Chief Anhalt. 

More globally, Chief Anhalt sits on the Dane County Criminal Justice Council and speaks to the dedication of the entire county when addressing issues in the criminal justice system.

“The idea of this council is to get people who are policy and decision makers in a room to talk about issues and barriers in the criminal justice system,” said Anhalt.  “We recently did a mapping exercise which identified that a global issue for police officers was getting the information about resources in their hands, whether that’s for social services, poverty or domestic violence.”

Chief Anhalt continues to stress that the ability to identify the overall issues faced by police officers is the first step in addressing those concerns and better serving the community as a whole.  


Recently retired as Madison Police Chief, Noble Wray believes everyone has a story in terms of how they have been touched by domestic violence.  He served as chief of police for 9 years, having originally joined the force in 1984. 

Wray joined more than 125 people in attending a groundbreaking ceremony on July 24 for the dawning of a new DAIS. 

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) operates the only safe house in Dane County for women leaving a dangerous abusive situation and their children.  For some time now, the waiting list on a given night for the safe house has been running 50 to 80 people. 

DAIS recently broke ground on a 35,000-square foot facility located at 2102 Fordem Avenue in Madison. The new building will provide seven times the space now available to the organization, and house twice the number of people in its emergency shelter.

“This wouldn’t have happened 25 years ago,” Wray was overheard saying to Darald Hanusa at the event. Dr. Hanusa is a therapist and Madison-based expert in the field of domestic violence.

We caught up with Chief Wray, who made time in his very busy schedule in the few final weeks before his retirement to speak with this DAIS volunteer.  We wanted to know, why not? And why is it happening now? 

Back in the day

Chief Wray remembers what it was like as a 23-year-old police officer, when the prevailing law enforcement approach was, “Is there someplace else you can take the male half?”

In reflecting on how things were back in the early 1980s, when it came to domestic violence calls, he said, the community mindset was more of a “go, separate, mediate, and you move on.”

Soon a few people were really pushing the issue in the 1980s and starting to challenge the overall thinking about domestic violence. “The advocates were the trailblazers and once that this was an issue, we made significant strides,” he said. 

As a result of consciousness raising in the 1990s, domestic abuse went from being seen as a family situation to being deemed a crime.  Shortly thereafter, it meant mandatory arrest.

During this third phase, the community started getting coordinated to begin to address domestic violence from a different perspective. It was more of “Let’s meet, talk, and work with prosecutors and advocates,” Wray said.

Starting in the late 1990s and more recently, more people began seeing that domestic violence is something that has gone beyond the people daily involved.

Let the sun shine in

Fast forward to 2013. “It seems and appears that the (DAIS) Capital Campaign has been a focal point to rally around and galvanize support in the community, ” said Wray. It’s helped to lessen the stigma surrounding abuse, and has gotten more people mobilized to address the issue. 

He said he was encouraged by what the broad base of support at the groundbreaking ceremony—state representatives, members of the media, and local business people.

He talked more about then and now, addressing how the new shelter will be housed at a public location rather than in an undisclosed setting.

“We had to hide where the facility existed,” he said. “It was our dirty little secret, and that (groundbreaking) day demonstrated to me that the sun is shining on this issue,” he said. 

Putting discussion in new places

Wray brought up Shannon Barry’s strong leadership as executive director at DAIS and how it has greatly impressed him. “Shannon has been steady; she has been inspirational; she has looked at new ways to bring partnerships together,” he stated.  

Barry honed in on the idea of bringing the private sector together to move forward regarding domestic violence as well as the creation of a new building, he said. “There’s more of a reason to galvanize, thanks to Shannon.”

The positive impact of all of this has been that “it put the discussion (about domestic violence) in places where it’s never been before.”

Awareness started with advocates, moved to law enforcement and then the coordinated community response, Wray explained. However, it never fully reached the private sector in Madison and Dane County until this past year.  

“It’s become more of a main stream issue,” Wray said, likening it to an all-out anti-smoking campaign that a community embarks on.

Companies like CUNA Mutual and others are stepping up and saying we need to address domestic violence, he pointed out, even though it’s not the mission or the vision as such of their agencies.

It’s impressive to see someone’s vision and dream become a reality, said Wray, who  met with Barry three or four years ago at the Capitol, when the dream was just a dream. “But to see that dream come to fruition was very impressive. It is really important for me to emphasize the credibility of this agency (DAIS),” he said.

Moving into the future

Looking ahead, Wray does not want the community to lose momentum on the issue of domestic violence. “We must be vigilant,” he declared. “We cannot stop the momentum…”

Clearly, an understanding of what can happen as a result of trauma in early life has emerged, thanks to research on the subject. “Domestic violence is in the heart and soul of that whole thing…,” Wray pointed out.  

Some years back, the local police looked at case studies involving the most violent gang members in the area. There was also a cross section of service providers in the room that knew these same individuals as kids.

“It was an eye-opener, how you could trace back trauma in their earlier life” to what happened later on in terms of choices they made, things that happened, and crimes. 

“From a public safety standpoint, the community has to invest in prevention,” he said. Acknowledging that there will be a cost involved in doing this, he stands firm that it will pay in the long run, by reducing the harm to themselves and others later on.

“I get a lot of focus on gang violence, because we can talk about it publicly,” explained Wray. “So many times, because we don’t want to re-traumatize the victim, we don’t talk about it (an incident of domestic violence)…From a public information standpoint, you have to be sensitive to the victim. The unintended consequence is people may not be aware of the impact domestic violence really has in the community.”

“I can talk in great detail about what happens outside of someone’s door,” he said, “but you can’t talk about what’s happening inside their door.”

Even if people can talk about abuse with their family members, he said, it’s an important step because it helps raise awareness. He encourages folks to start small by discussing the issue with people in their circle, as it may help save a life. 

Making strides through LEAP

Wray referred to the LEAP (Law Enforcement Advocate Partnership) program,  which got started a few years ago at the urging of police officers.

“We ran a pilot out of the South District, and we thought it was very successful. In sharing it with others, it got support,” he said, smiling 

Wray has made a budget request for 2014, to expand the LEAP program to other districts.  So far, he reported, this effort had garnered Mayor Soglin’s support as well as that of alders.

“We’re really excited about connecting victims with advocates,” enthused Wray, who’s put in a supplemental request of $60,000 to expand the program in Madison.

“I really do feel we have a good chance of expanding this next year,” he said. In fact, addressing domestic violence has become part of the fabric of the (MPD) organization, he said, focusing on the issues and trying to be as proactive as possible. 

Wray said that most of the homicides in Madison in the last decade have involved “young African American men and/or (cases of) domestic violence. For a community that prides itself on addressing homicide…you can never move away from this issue (domestic violence) if you’re talking about homicide prevention,” he stressed. 

“We are really in the early stages of seeing how law enforcement can be part of focusing on trauma early on,” Chief Wray said. By dealing with some of the root causes in childhood, it can make a difference later on as they grow into adults. 


Connie Kilmark, on building new foundations

The subject of money is one of the tools of control in an abusive relationship, says Connie Kilmark, a locally based financial consultant.

A person that abuses may limit or even completely control their partner’s access to money and/or to information about money, and may control access to transportation as well, explains Kilmark. Her niche is honing in on the intersection of money and emotion through her business, Kilmark and Associates LLC.  

Kilmark talks about “domestic terrorism,” describing it as happening when your partner does not leave, but you know at some point, that person is capable of killing you. It’s the lurking potential lethal component that is truly terroristic in its nature.

Kilmark talks about the profound shadow of terrors that can result, when the person you love starts to reduce or denigrate your outside contacts. “You’re being gradually cut off (from friends and family), questioned, examined,” she said, describing the isolation, which can be inflicted as the sense of ownership increases. The person perpetuating the abuse may ask, defensively, “Did you talk to him (or her)? What did you talk about?”

A beginning phone call will never start at, “Why don’t you leave?” when calling the 24-Help Line at DAIS, Kilmark says. “The organization supports the fact that the person experiencing abuse knows more about her situation than anyone else does,” she states.

She likens living with domestic violence to being in a private war zone of sorts. “The rest of the world is not at war, but you privately have been at war,” she explains.

The damage that can happen to an individual’s self-esteem can make you believe you have no choice, that you’re lucky because nobody else would possibly put up with you.

Over the years, Kilmark has worked with a number of people who’ve left abusive relationships and are in the process of building new foundations.

The trend nowadays is moving away from focusing on increasing “financial literacy” and instead, acting more as a financial coach or consultant when it comes to helping folks look at their spending, saving, and goals. 

“The question of why people don’t handle their money well is more about modeling,” Kilmark says. “It’s less about not having or learning or knowing the facts”-and, she asserts, it seems to best learned in the context of caring relationships.

People need more than a lesson in the classroom when it comes to money, she contends. They need a relationship, within which vulnerable lessons are taught.  Indeed, Kilmark helps people go from “I don’t know what I’m doing” to “I know better what I’m doing.”

Taking the mystery out of money

She spoke about a pilot program about 10 years ago at DAIS involving people that had left abusive relationships.  These women were matched with mentors, basically women with a business background that had higher financial skills.

Since power imbalances exist in abusive relationships, she took care to structure the program so it would not mirror imbalances.  From the start, everyone sat around a circular table and shared their stories—the mentors, the mentees, and the staff from DAIS.  This kind of intelligent listening-which Kilmark also uses in working with individuals in her financial coaching practice-builds trust and partnerships.   

“Only after we understood each other’s histories, did we start the financial lessons,” Kilmark said, adding that everyone took the same lessons.

The mentors not only learned in the process, they also gained a vast respect as well as understanding after hearing first-hand what the other women had been through.

“The power differential and the status differential had been addressed,” Kilmark said, when the mentors saw what their mentees had been able to accomplish.   

“I think they actually learned and gained more than the women who were learning about money,” she stated.

Once they got to talking about the nuts and bolts of finances and money skills, she said, what once seemed an overwhelming task seemed so doable.

An empowerment tool

“Financial capability building in survivors is a very important tool to help prevent re-entering of abusive relationships. It’s part of believing in yourself,” Kilmark stated.

She thinks of capability building as a relapse-prevention tool of sorts. When women leave an abusive living situation, they may have left bills unpaid, and there may be lawsuits as a result.

By sitting down with women whose finances are in much different shape than they’d like them to be, she basically said, “‘Here’s what you can do about it. You don’t have to face it alone.’ It helps women have confidence in themselves.”

The pilot involved about 8 participants total, including staff, which falls in to the 8 to 12 total number of folks she thinks is ideal for this type of program. A small group setting allows enough time and provides for an atmosphere of intimacy/closeness that she likes to establish. 

What it basically does is builds a bridge between the person who doesn’t know something with someone who might already have that skill. “The bridges are all built of love,” Kilmark said. “By love, I mean ‘a deep wish that you flourish.’”

Money is an area where people sometimes think others know much more about it than you do, and can lead to feelings of embarrassment and even shame.   

The financial class provides a bridge access made of safe paving stones, where women say, “’ No one’s going to think less of me…It’s OK not to know (something).’

That made it OK to find out what you did not know and not feel that you’re less because you did not know.”

Kilmark said that the idea of having a mentor-mentee financial/money program “might still have some legs.  We might want to re-examine that.”

Warning signs to watch for

When it comes to money and finances, are there warning signs for people to watch out for, or red flags that might suggest a problem? In a healthy partnered relationship, Kilmark explains, information about finances is transparent. Access to financial statements is a given and an open thing. Though there could be assignments where one partner takes care of paying the bills, in a healthy relationship there is no question that both parties are entitled to information.  There is a shared sense of decisions being made collaboratively, Kilmark said, not that one person alone is making the money/spending decisions, a take it or leave it type of approach.

A healthy partnered relationship also involves both people having some autonomy on personal spending as opposed to shared. By that she means that if a person is employed, they don’t feel obligated to automatically turn 100% of their earnings over to their partner. Likewise, if both parties work outside the home, there is not indirect control by one party that is cross-examining in an accusatory manner every dollar that is spent.

In abusive relationships, sometimes the woman/man who is being abused is no longer working outside the home because the very fact that she earns a paycheck is a problem.  When issues of power and control take hold, one of the casualties for the person who is being abused may be that she no longer feels free to work and loses her income. 

As abuse escalates, the intent of the person that is abusing is to give his/her partner “the smallest amount of wiggle room, that she depends for everything on the abuser; that’s really the objective,” Kilmark explained. 

I’m Connie Kilmark, and I will continue to help women become comfortable and competent in the domain of personal finances/money.

To contact Connie Kilmark and Associates LLC, call (608)255-9500.  


Marty Smith, helping families reframe their lives

“Did you know that 40% of girls 14 to 17 know someone their own age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend? Did you know that 1/3 (one third) of all referrals to the District Attorney’s office are related to domestic violence? Most people have no idea that domestic violence affects us all!”

That’s just one of the messages a Middleton business owner recently took to the streets this summer.  

Marty Smith, owner of Middleton Art & Framing, is on a mission to help thousands of folks learn more about domestic violence.  Smith gives facts about domestic violence as he advertises in a circular that goes out to 50,000 homes each month. (DAIS staff supplies the monthly facts and figures, which can be used for other public education efforts as well.)

In the ad, he includes a discount coupon, and for every coupon redeemed, he will donate $10 toward the new center in Dane County for those affected by domestic violence.  

People are not just seeing the ad, many are taking action in response to what they read. “We actually have people walk in that say, ‘What’s this DAIS all about?’ I’m talking guys that aren’t doing any framing,” Smith said. “They come in and make a donation (to DAIS).”

Smith says people have come in and shared their stories, what’s happened to them as well as to their “friends, neighbors, and relatives that have been involved in bad situations.” 

Unlike with cancer in which families look to an organization like The American Cancer Society for help, he said, for me there isn’t a national group that comes to mind for domestic violence.

Smith finds that when people come in to the store and mention the ad, about half know what DAIS is all about, but nearly half, he estimates, haven’t heard of it. 

What would he say is the biggest misconception that he encounters in talking with people about domestic violence? “I think they don’t understand how widespread it is, because it’s such a hidden problem,” Smith said. “They say, ‘It wouldn’t happen in my family.’ In reality, your sister in Nebraska’s going through it every day.”

Smith understands how people can think that domestic violence happens to other people, but not folks that you know. He knew a woman from Milwaukee that grew up in a family with more than 10 siblings, and 17 years ago, she was in an abusive relationship. “None of her brothers or sisters wanted to believe it (the abuse) was true,” he said, as their then brother-in-law came across as kind and considerate.  She ended up going to a similar program to DAIS in Minnesota where she lived, he says, but it was very difficult for her.

“Her husband came from a wealthy family, and he actually paid people to spy on her. But I’m not surprised. I’ll bet that kind of thing happens all the time.”

Smith first learned about DAIS through his friend Jacqui Sakowski, who has just donated furniture to the organization.  When he learned about the donation, he started asking her more about what DAIS does, and eventually, met up with DAIS staff to talk about some ideas and ways he could get involved. 

In May, Smith sponsored a “Meet and Greet” at Middleton Art & Framing, in conjunction with an art exhibit and reception.  They donated 40% of sales from the evening to DAIS, and from that time on, he has given $10 from every frame to the organization.

To date, they have raised $3,500 for DAIS, and the business has committed to a goal of $10,000.

“I think that individuals, institutions, and businesses all need to support DAIS, both in terms of the Capital Campaign, but (also) in terms of ongoing funding,” he asserts.

“My name is Marty Smith. I will continue to support DAIS; we will contribute $10 per customer picture framing, for the long term.”

Middleton Art & Framing is located at 6771 University Avenue; (608) 203-6196, www.midddletonframing.com


For some victims/survivors of domestic violence it is beneficial to develop a safety plan to have in the event of another violent interaction or when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. A safety plan is created by a victim (often with the help of an advocate) that thinks through different options for leaving an abusive partner or creates an action plan in the event of another incident. Thinking through a plan can be helpful in times of crisis. There is no “one fits all” safety plan because each victim’s situation is unique and every safety plan is different. It is critical to plan for and take into account a victim’s children when creating a safety plan. Victims can create a family safety plan so children can learn how they too, can be safe.   Additionally, safety planning is fluid and will change over time as a victim’s situation changes. It is beneficial for victims to continually asses their safety needs and concerns as time goes on as safety plans can and are expected to change over time. 

DAIS can help facilitate safety planning through meaningful interactions and discussions. DAIS advocates strive to initiate conversations about safety planning and creating healthy boundaries during different levels of a caller and/or client’s interactions with DAIS. Whether it’s reviewing safety tips over the help line, to creating a personalized safety plan during a crisis response meeting, to planning for one’s safety after obtaining a restraining order in a legal meeting, to discussing healthy boundaries during support group meetings, or creating a family safety plan in shelter, advocates provide multiple opportunities for client’s to discuss their safety. DAIS advocates meet our callers and clients “where they are at” and will help victims evaluate their current safety needs when discussing safety planning. DAIS advocates believe in the empowerment model and understand that what works for one person may not work for another person and so we strive to critically think through different options and let the victims decide what their safest options are. Our primary goals are to give victims the information necessary to help them feel confident in their decisions, and to increase their physical and emotional safety.  

As the DAIS Crisis Intervention Team, we will assist clients with planning for their safety needs. 


In December 2012, Yvonne Allen-Hooks, co-owner of Luckenbooth Café in Black Earth hosted a luncheon/tea and donation box to help those hurt by abuse.

A DAIS volunteer recently sat down with Yvonne as she candidly shared her story publicly for the “Voices for One. And for All.” Project, “How did you find out about DAIS?” the volunteer asked Yvonne, a woman that was born in Scotland and some years back, also lived in Norway.  

Yvonne revealed that over the years, she was a DAIS client many times, staying in the emergency shelter with four or five children in tow.  “Periodically throughout our marriage,” she explained. “I would end up at the safe house.”

The abuse from her then-husband included kicking her in the stomach while she was pregnant, as well as being hit with an old-fashioned heavy-type phone when she tried to call the police. She suffered permanent damage in her neck as a result of the phone incident. “And still, I went back,” Yvonne stated.

The police chief of her town at the time was aware of the violence and kept a close eye on their house when Yvonne was scheduled to return home from her second-shift job.  He recognized her abuser’s car in the driveway, rang the doorbell, and asked Yvonne if she was okay.

Through a closed front door, she told him that she was “just tired,” but the officer didn’t buy the story.  Moments later, he came through the garage door and found her lying unconscious behind the front door.

“In fact, I wasn’t just tired,” Yvonne indicated, detailing how he saved her life.  “I ended up in the hospital for seven days.”

The safety measures she took during those difficult years included moving their bedroom to the back of their house, within view and hearing range of their neighbors’ living room.  

By the time she was pregnant with her last biological child—her youngest is now 15-and-a-half years old—her abuser was living in the basement and she continued to live in fear. “I slept with a knife under my pillow and a light on at all times,” she stated. 

She recalled asking her DAIS counselor, ‘How do you know when it’s time to go?’ “She said, ‘In your time, you will know.’”  

Yvonne suffered a pulmonary embolism 18 days after delivering her daughter, so her mother flew in from Scotland where she lived to see Yvonne and help with the other children. One day shortly after returning home from the hospital, Yvonne recalled, “I said something my husband did not like, and he slapped me on the face in front of my mother.”

It was precisely at that moment, Yvonne said, that she decided, “Enough is enough.” Not wanting her mother to witness the horror that was happening, Yvonne swiftly sent her mom back to Scotland. 

Next came a series of tough decisions that ultimately paved the way for a safer and happier life for herself and her children.   

“This is when DAIS really helped me,” she explained, referring to the advocate that went to every court date with her. “We got a permanent restraining order on him, and he did not come back.”

She proceeded with divorce, which the court eventually granted in 2002. Although Yvonne ended up strapped with $40,000 of her ex-husband’s debts, she was still able to keep her house, with the help of her family and friends.       

Some people contend, and others sing, that they get by with a little help from their friends. For Yvonne, however, her friends were truly lifelines in that they helped her get through the years she was in the abusive relationship.

She discussed how an abuser often tries to isolate the person from their family and friends.  “They will be obnoxious to your friends, so you have no friends,” she said.

Yvonne is hugely grateful to her friends, Judie, Donna, Lyn, and Janice and Ted for their concern, assistance, and support. “They stuck with me through thick and thin. They did it in spite of him. But there were other friends that could not stick with me…”

One night after working second shift, Yvonne, who started to have more health problems, was especially tired and distraught on the way home, wondering how she could keep up her current pace.  She also worried about how she was going to be able to afford to celebrate Christmas, which was right around the corner, with her kids.

She felt like the weight of the world was lifted from her shoulders as she walked in the door and saw a Christmas tree, decorated with money her steadfast friends had raised from regular yard sales, etc. Thanks to their kindness and generosity, her family was able to enjoy a holiday meal and the children were blessed with gifts to open. 

Yvonne said she often thinks about the line from the song, “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

“If you feel like your heart is breaking all the time, it’s abuse…,” she reflected, stressing that abuse comes in a number of different forms.  

For the past 10 years, Yvonne has been married to her husband, Cliff, whom she said has never been abusive toward her.  Nonetheless, it took more than five years before she could let go of the habit of sleeping with a knife under the pillow.

“My name is Yvonne Allen-Hooks, and I will breathe. I will live. I will not let anyone put me down again-ever. And I will tell my story, straight from my heart.”