Editor's note: The woman in this story is not named because she works with victims of domestic and sex assault.
Think of her as your temporary best friend.
Or whatever you need her to be.
Your ears. Because you're too upset to remember what the judge just said. Because the man who choked you until you passed out sits a few feet away, in a good gray suit.
She'll go out into the night for you.
She'll go with you to the hospital if you've been raped, hold your hand.
She's a victim advocate for Voices of Hope. For her, every case is different.
"I'm a chameleon," the advocate says Wednesday in her office at the agency in a big old building near 25th and N streets.
She loves cats. You can see that. She does needlework to relax because this job is stressful.
Here's a piece she just finished: a blue butterfly.
She has kind blue eyes, no makeup.
She didn't choose this job, she says. It chose her.
She'll step over the shattered glass if she has to. But she'd rather meet you at the office, for her own safety.
"We have a rule: He has to be in jail."
If you're feeling isolated, she understands. Isolation is a big part of domestic abuse. Maybe the man cut you off from family and friends.
She's seen many women like you. Rich. Poor. A pastor's wife ...
She looks through incident reports at the police station. That's one way she'll find your name. Or the police may tell you about her. Or the hospital. Or the shelter for abused women.
She'll meet you in a hidden alcove at the courthouse so you don't have to see him.
She knows abusers can be convincing. She can get confused herself when she hears both sides of the story in a courtroom. They often truly believe they are the victims.
Times like that, she asks herself this: Who is the one afraid?
People tell her they could never do her job.
"It's not like this is a job you pick," she says.
She started out years ago as a volunteer, answering calls on the crisis line.
Most people at Voices of Hope have some connection to abuse. A friend or sister was abused.
In her case, it was her mom. One time, she says, her stepdad tried to throw a pan of hot grease at her.
But her mom didn't see herself as a victim.
You might not either.
One in three women will experience domestic assault. One in four will experience sexual assault.
Unfortunately, she says, she has job security. The numbers haven't changed much over the years.
She'll hug you, if that's what you need.
She'll sit there and keep her mouth shut, like she does Wednesday afternoon in District Court.
She'll offer you a smile when you need one.
She'll talk to well-intentioned friends or relatives telling you what to do.
And she'll talk to you about your options, try to help you make your own decisions. She doesn't want you to depend on her to decide. You know what's best for you.
Still love him? That's common, even if you're afraid.
She knows the legal process is scary, too.
She'll write down your next court date. She'll explain the terminology.
If she never hears from you again, that's great. She hopes that means you're living your life, that your story ends with survival.
She hopes you don't ever need her, but she's here if you do.
A voice of hope.
Reach Colleen Kenney at 473-2655 or email@example.com.