High rents in Bay Area forcing some women to stay in abusive relationships

Domestic abuse survivors are desperate to leave their abusers, but some say they can't move out because rents are too high.

Latoya Roaneagle is like any proud mom, her world is Eli and Jacob, her two little boys. She says that things weren't what they seemed for their family.

She says, hidden from view was domestic abuse. Before the alleged violence and 911 calls, Roaneagle says she met a quiet, thoughtful young man in high school, a good writer.

She asked ABC7 News to call him Junior and to blur his face.

"It was in high school that I should have known the abuse was there," she said.

She says it started slowly. Junior didn't like her speaking with friends, then her family. She says the first incidence of violence happened a year later.

"That night I had to deal with him strangling me, kicking me and spitting in my face," she said.

She says she fought too and they both went to jail that night. It was there she found out she was pregnant. She had her first son, then another baby, and said she thought about leaving.

But housing was out of reach. The cheapest studio she could find was $1,200. At one point, she moved the boys to a shelter. After 60 days, and facing homelessness, she went back, hoping it would get better. She says that was a mistake.

In February, things turned violent again. Except this time, shortly after, she lost custody of her children.

"They called me a negligent mother because I let the violence keep on escalating," she said.

One South Bay shelter says stories like Roaneagle's are becoming alarmingly common.

Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence is in Santa Clara County. It provides 24-hour, year-round shelter and help for women who fear for their safety. But Colsaria Henderson says their focus has changed.

"This wasn't the case 10 years ago. We weren't asked to spend most of our time doing housing searches," Henderson said. "When we crossed the line is when we started talking to women about 'Well, maybe we can make your homelessness work.'"

In Next Door Solution's pantry, there's everything from toiletries, emergency clothes, to diapers, but the need is great. Between four shelters in Santa Clara County, there are only 63 beds. In all, the shelters turned away 2,000 women last year.

Henderson says this is what keeps her up at night: Being forced to stay can mean the difference between life and death.

In 2014, there were two domestic violence-related deaths reported in Santa Clara County. In 2015, there were 13. Henderson worked with many of the victims.

"I know every one of their names and every one of their children's names. I will never not think about them," Henderson said.

For Roaneagle at least, there seems to be a chance at a new start. With support, she's found a single room to rent and has a new job, and most importantly she has her boys back.

"I'm happy. I wake up happy," Roaneagle said.

Roaneagle says Junior is in jail on domestic abuse charges, and is set to be released next month. ABC7 News reached out to junior's public defender by phone and email but did not receive a response.
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