Domestic violence survivor: Wichita needs more shelter space

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"Life was wonderful for me and my kids. Happy, outgoing."

Kirstin Rickert remembers what life was like before 2017. Before she met the man that would change everything as she knew it. 

"We went out as a family, rode bikes, went to the park. Everything looked good on the outside," she says. 

It wasn't long before things started to change. 

"He locked me in our bedroom with a chain link for two months...It was like I was in a horror movie," says Rickert. 

He'd only let her out to take her children to school. A connection that would ultimately save her families lives. A social worker at the school reached out and offered help. She offered to take Rickert to the court house to file for a Protection from Abuse order, and finally, after countless trips, the order was filed. That was when Rickert found the Wichita Family Crisis Center. 

Just weeks later, her abuser found her again and abducted her. 

"Apparently he knew where I was. He had eyes on me all of the time...He grabbed me, threw me to the ground, smashed my head into the concrete floor, strangled me, bit my ear, punched me in my head, face and my arms," says Rickert. 

She escaped, but just barely. Rickert had injuries that landed her in the emergency room. 

"The only person I wanted was my advocate from the Wichita Family Crisis Center, so they called her and she literally dropped everything and was there in less than five minutes," says Rickert. 

She says without the Crisis Center, she might not be alive today. This resource is scarce in the Wichita area. 

"It's just a scramble. We're looking for hotel rooms. We're looking for funding for hotel rooms. We will do anything we can to keep these women safe." 

Amanda Meyers, the Director of the Wichita Family Crisis Center knows more space is needed. 

This shelter and Harbor House are the only two shelters for women and children suffering from domestic violence in Sedgwick, Sumner and Cowley Counties, with only 62 beds available. Every month, the two shelters are turning away between 40 and 50 women who need a safe place to hide. 

"It is disheartening to hear somebody legitimately in crisis, in fear of their life and their situation, and not necessarily be able to fix it at that moment," says Keri McGregor, the Program Director for Catholic Charities Harbor House. 

McGregor says as the years go by, she's seeing more and more families in need of help. The YWCA says one in four women will be a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. 

"We're always going to need more services for victims because we're always getting more victims," she says. 

Much of the funding for the two shelters comes from federal, state and city grants. 

"I have seen the consequences of someone not coming to a domestic violence shelter and them being found and them being horribly, horribly beaten," says Meyers. 

"Wichita's a big place...two places isn't good enough. Not even close," says Rickert. 

Rickert is lucky. Her life now looks nothing like it did two years ago. Her family is safe and her attacker is finally behind bars for the foreseeable future. Now, here goals are set on moving forward and helping other women just like her. 

"Thankful blessed...you know, I really shouldn't be standing here today. My life should have been taken from me by his hands, but it wasn't."

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