IMPact fundraiser’s keynote speaker Nancy D. Solomon, a resident of Gig Harbor, speaks to the audience about her own experience growing up in an abusive home. Photo by Hugh McMillan

When the IMPact Key Peninsula organization held its annual fundraising luncheon on May 10, the keynote speaker was Nancy Solomon. She began her presentation by saying, “I wish I didn’t have to be here today — I’m angry about it.” The packed room only needed a moment to understand the meaning behind her statement, and applauded in support of the sentiment. On that beautiful sunny afternoon, despite a finely-prepared and plentiful lunch, despite dining in the company of local business owners, professionals, and political leaders, that room was the last place anyone there wanted to be, because the topic and the reason for gathering was domestic violence.

Solomon is intimately familiar with the silence, denial and pattern of this terrible family trouble. She knows domestic violence is boundless; she learned it as a Jewish child in New York. Jewish families did not suffer this gentile affliction — the women in her family were adamant about that, and so it was true: “It must have been her fault.”  When she was 32, however, her grandmother said she was afraid “he would kill you” if she spoke. Solomon’s Aunt Shirley “didn’t want to get involved”; her Aunt Joyce “didn’t know what to do,” and so did nothing.

One in four women, and fewer men (approximately 15 percent), will experience domestic or sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to Solomon’s research. Now a counselor who helps victims find their voices, she says, “We were taught to be quiet. We can’t be quiet anymore.”

Once she stood on the George Washington Bridge, and was too depressed to jump; she felt she wasn’t even worth that. Speaking to the quiet group assembled on May 10, Solomon said, “Today is an invitation to help other women get off their bridges.” She looked audience members straight-on and said, “It’s what domestic violence victims don’t get that is the problem. It’s the lack of safety, the warm hug — it’s what we don’t do today (at the luncheon) that is the problem.”

As she spoke, purses rustled, men reached for the inside pockets of their jackets, checkbooks appeared on tables with pens poised over them.

Penny Gazabat, IMPact House executive director, told the audience the organization’s goal was to raise $100,000 over three years. IMPact receives $12,000 annually from Target stores, a group of local women donate on a monthly basis, and the effort recently received a $500 grant from Pierce County. Gazabat said that grant would be doled out as needed for tolls to get women across the new Narrows Bridge to safety, as there is currently no safe house either in Gig Harbor or on the Key Peninsula.

Solomon strode back to the podium and upped the ante. “This is a fundraiser!” she said. “When we have strong services in an area, not only are we serving them (victims), we are also saying we have zero tolerance for domestic violence.” Looking at Gazabat, she said, “Let’s make the goal $1 million in three years — starting now!”

Gazabat grinned, nodded, and around the room, pens started writing.

The IMPact House operated on the Key Peninsula for several years but was closed Jan. 31 due to operating funds shortage. The May 10 was the board of directors’ second annual fundraising luncheon and marked the kick-off for a capital campaign to raise funds for another safe house. The new shelter would likely be located in Gig Harbor.

A life changed forever
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