Sanctuary for the Abused
Saturday, March 12, 2005
WORKED TIRELESSLY TO HELP BATTERED WOMEN ESCAPE HARM
Pam Butler, champion for victims of violence
By Betty Barnacle
Whenever people talked about Pam Butler, the conversation somehow would turn to how passionate she was about things.
They didn't always mean it in a positive way, either.
Even when she was the first domestic-violence-victim advocate hired by Santa Clara County Social Services in 1996 and was serving on the county Domestic Violence Council, she wasn't too popular at the district attorney's office. Some of the prosecutors thought she was too critical of a legal system she didn't understand.
But others, including some judges, found her the perfect advocate because she, too, had suffered domestic violence for most of the 18 months she was married.
Ms. Butler, praised by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a speech last year as ``an inspiration to every person who has been a victim of domestic violence,'' died at age 50 on March 1 when life support equipment was unplugged in accordance with her written directives. She had been comatose with brain damage after suffering a seizure and cardiac arrest Feb. 24 in the Santa Clara home she shared with Douglas Dailey, her partner for the past 7 1/2 years. The cause of the seizure is still undetermined, according to the coroner's office.
Ms. Butler's ex-husband was sentenced to prison mainly because of the testimony she gave against him during a well-publicized 1992 trial, although she said she was terrified he would someday kill her.
After the verdict, Ms. Butler told a Mercury News reporter, ``Not many people do what I have done, and I can understand why. Who would want to? It would be nicer just to run away.''
A native of Illinois, one of three children, Ms. Butler was raised in the Bay Area and was a cheerleader at Palo Alto High School. She graduated from San Francisco State University, where she majored in art and got a job doing graphic art on the Peninsula.
``She was passionate about everything she did -- art, sewing, reading, photography. And being a domestic-violence advocate -- that was her whole life,'' her sister, Cynthia, said.
Patricia Brickman, an administrative assistant for county social services, worked with Ms. Butler as a volunteer.
``She was very, very bright and passionate about the job,'' Brickman said. ``She was instrumental in setting up safety nets for battered women, installing alarm systems when needed, helping obtain restraining orders, counseling, finding housing, supporting the victims in court -- whatever was needed. Pam was always there, sometimes working a 24/7 week.''
Ms. Butler arranged a trip for Japanese women to visit Santa Clara County and learn local methods of handling domestic violence. She also was responsible for ``Making Peace,'' a documentary, still airing on PBS. Two years ago, Ms. Butler lost her county job because of budget cuts. She started working full time with her partner at his photography business and recently also was involved with aiding abandoned dogs.
Cynthia Spencer, an attorney and domestic-violence activist, said Ms. Butler ``did an enormous amount to help victims of domestic violence and educate people about the difficulties domestic violence victims face. `Brave' is a good word for her. She was very brave.''
Born: Sept. 29, 1954, in Evanston, Ill..
Died: March 1, 2005, in Santa Clara.
Survived by: Parents, William and Carolyn Butler of Palo Alto; sister, Cynthia Butler of Berkeley; brother, Jeffrey Butler of Iowa City, Iowa; niece, Madeline King of Berkeley; and her partner, Douglas Dailey of Santa Clara.
Services: Will be private.
Memorial: Donations may be made in Ms. Butler's name to the Pam Butler Trust Fund, P.O. Box 3432, Santa Clara, Calif. 95055. The fund will continue her domestic violence research and Web site www.growing. com/nonviolent, aiding domestic violence victims and caring for abandoned dogs.