Helen Magers and her co-workers see women battered by segments of a society gone violent.
Women who come into Women Helping Women, a Cincinnati agency where Magers is executive director, are invariably in crisis. Some are fleeing abusive husbands or boyfriends. Some are crossing the country, trying to start new lives.Recently, a woman who said her husband beat her with a baseball bat arrived with her two children, Magers says.
"Her left eye was swollen shut, her right arm - she couldn't move it," Magers says. "She went to the hospital, but the hospital had no place to keep her kids."
The three were referred to a local shelter.
Last September, a 34-year-old woman who had been visiting the agency for 18 months was murdered. The woman had sought help in coping with an abusive husband. The husband, who had been in prison for wife beating, is charged with her slaying, Magers says.
Magers began to cry as she recalled the case. "They leave cracks in your heart. . . ."
Workers from Magers' agency are following the case and attended the man's court arraignment.
"He thinks we're trying to railroad him," Magers says. "We went to his arraignment. He thought our being there put a lot of pressure on the judge."
Women Helping Women was founded in 1973 by graduate psychology students. It began as a general counseling and peer support group and has no national affiliation.
It now includes counseling for rape victims and talking with law enforcement officers and hospital personnel to encourage greater sensitivity in treating and questioning rape victims. Magers says her agency meets monthly at University of Cincinnati Hospital with police, prosecutors and hospital employees.
"The bottom line is, we're trying to make this as easy on the victims as possible," Magers says.
Magers, 44, was a Cincinnati television writer-producer when she says she decided to follow her social conscience. Her career at the agency includes being volunteer, interim executive director and, since 1984, executive director.
"The reason I finally came here is, it was time I put my energies where my big mouth was," she says. "If I was committed to this, it was time I did something about it.
"Coming to this, and learning about this, has been astounding. You can't feel sorry for yourself and work here very long."
Magers was reared as a Southern Baptist farm girl in tiny Pee Wee Valley, Ky. "I grew up like one of the Little Women," she says, "I didn't know there were things like incest or rape."
The agency is housed near the Hamilton County Courthouse, where volunteers often accompany women to court. It has eight full-time staff members, one part-timer and about 100 volunteers.
The agency serves about 10,000 people a year. There are no fees, Magers says.
Money from the United Way, city and state grants and a weekly bingo game help fund a $300,000 budget, Magers says.
Domestic abuse cases are by far the agency's biggest concern. During the first nine months of 1988, 25 women in the agency's service area of Hamilton and Butler counties were murdered, allegedly by husbands or boyfriends.
"They were axed. They were stabbed, they were run over by cars and dragged," Magers says, adding that in at least half of the cases drugs were involved.
Some success stories emerge from the program, Magers says. Some women are successful in starting new lives. Some return to Women Helping Women as counselors, others send letters telling of their prog-ress. Some send donations of $5 or $10 as a thank-you.