The Spring of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's only certified domestic violence shelter and resource center, started out as a three-bedroom house in Tampa. Now, it's the largest such center in Florida with a 103-bed shelter (including four beds for battered men), an on-site public school and a 24-hour hotline (813-247-SAFE). Overseeing the Spring is Executive Director Linda Oberhaus, a tenacious advocate who grew up in a violent household herself. Oberhaus has worked for the Spring heading various departments since 1995. Hillsborough is second among Florida counties in the number of reported domestic violence offenses. Here's Oberhaus on:
"Some people would look at that and make a snapshot judgment that Hillsborough County is a violent city. I disagree. I think that the law enforcement here in Hillsborough County do a fantastic job of holding batterers accountable."
"Often times people ask, 'Why do victims stay?' and we flip it around and say, 'Why does he batter someone he supposedly loves?' [Domestic violence victims] do not want to be homeless. They do not want anything to happen to their children. They may actually fear [being killed]."
The recent Chris Benoit murder/suicide:
"That's the ultimate act of control for a batterer — to kill the victim and end their life."
Her own family's experience:
"My mother was a victim of domestic violence, and it was [a] classic [example], considering the things that I've seen inside the shelter."
Why she sees less men in the shelter than women:
"There are a lot of stigmas. I think domestic violence, in and of itself, is a very shameful thing. I think men are even more [ashamed]."
What she would say to the batterers of Hillsborough County:
"Violence is never OK."