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Spokane Women’s Farms help battered women get back to their roots and grow

A local nonprofit equips women with gardening supplies so that they can grow fruits and vegetables as a process toward healing.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane police say domestic violence is a problem that is holding steady in the community. One in three women and one in seven men will be victims in their lifetime.

Glenna is one of them. She spent years in an abusive relationship.

“I don't think abusive men know how bad they hurt strong, loving women. I don't think they know that,” she said. “It made me confused, and it made me confused at who I was, and so having this garden has brought me back to a lot of peace. Now I have the power of love, I have that back, you know, and I love it.”

She now has a garden just steps from her front door, thanks to the Spokane Women’s Farms. The local nonprofit equips local battered women with the tools they need to garden in their own backyards or nearby urban gardens.

“I have something to focus on, I have something that's great, it's natural, it depends on me, it produces a lot of good stuff,” Glenna said.

Deborah Grenehalghe started the nonprofit near the end of 2016 after surviving two abusive relationships herself. The organization now has about ten gardens spread throughout the Spokane region.

“I wanted to make that opportunity available for other women who are stuck, whether stuck in the situation or stuck in the chaotic mode even though they physically moved out, that they might not know how to take the next step,” Grenehalghe said. “Gardening does that, it grounds you, it grounds you and it helps you focus on the future because you're growing your produce, you're creating a way to feed your family, and so that's why it was started.”

Grenehalghe printed out small fliers and handouts to be placed at the local YWCA. The handout reads Spokane Women’s Farms with the motto – “Dig in the dirt, feed your soul”. There is no mention of abuse or battered women, and that is by design. Grenehalghe says she wanted women to feel free to grab a flyer without fearing the risk of an abusive spouse or boyfriend finding it at home and getting angry.

The program is something Spokane police fully support.

Sgt. Jordan Ferguson works in the major crimes domestic violence unit. The unit works with the YWCA and prosecutors through a family justice center located at the YWCA.

He sees the farms as a major benefit to both the women who have been abused and the community as a whole.

“It's a great idea, and it's accomplishing several goals,” Sgt. Ferguson said. “One - it's helping the victims become survivors, giving them a way up with life, and it's a huge benefit to the community. There's a theory called broken windows where if you let windows stay broken on a warehouse, more people will break them, well, that applies to little spots like this in a community where you have a little area that the miscreants can pile up their garbage and do all sorts of bad things."

"If somebody reclaims it, makes it productive, that's going to fix it up, and that's going to scare away the ones breaking into cars and doing everything else, so not only does it benefit the survivors, it's benefiting the community as well," he continued.

The fliers at the YWCA seem to be working. That is how Glenna first learned about the program.

Now, her garden is up and running and already producing vegetables she has handed out to friends.

“You come out here and see what you've done, somebody helped me do this, somebody cared enough to make a program like this,” Glenna said. “If they didn't make this program, I probably wouldn't be as far as I am right now with myself, you know. I can come out my door and come in here and just mess around and be myself and feel the love and the beauty, and I love it. It makes me feel so good, it makes me feel great.”

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Spokane Police Department is teaming up with the YWCA for the “End the Silence” campaign.

Each Monday morning, the police department plans to post a message on Facebook encourage people to check on friends who may be in trouble or to speak up themselves.

The goal is to make a dent in the domestic violence problems, which don’t seem to be going anywhere in Spokane.

“Over the years, historically, we've held steady, which is bad, which means we're not making any inroads,” Sgt. Ferguson said. “Our department's philosophy came from High Point, North Carolina, where we're doing an offender confrontation and we're talking to the offenders, hunting them down, letting them know that we're out there, we're the ones that are going to come after them, they don't have to worry about their victim calling police because we'll be there already, and it's been very effective in other cities, and we've been going at that for a while and hopefully we're starting to get things moving on a downward trend.”

For more information on the Spokane Women’s Farms, you can visit its website. The organization is always looking for donations and volunteers.

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