Sep 21, 2019

The life of Marjaree Mason lives on

Marjaree Mason Center keeps the memory of former Fresno State student alive for more than 30 years by giving victims of domestic violence support and refuge

Kyle Lower/The Collegian

The Marjaree Mason Center has been an active domestic violence shelter since 1979 after the death of Fresno State student Marjaree Mason in November 1978. The MMC was founded and named in her honor after the approval of her parents.

Marjaree Mason attended Fresno State in 1978 as a business administration major. Her life was cut short at 36 years old when her ex-boyfriend kidnapped, raped and murdered her in his home.

Robert Tillman, a 26-year-old Fresno County sheriff’s deputy, kidnapped and raped Mason six days before her death.

According to the Marjaree Mason Center website, that Wednesday morning started a series of events including Mason confiding in friends, going to the Valley Medical Center and reporting the incident, and being advised by investigators to stay away from her Easton home.

Mason was found dead Monday morning with a pair of handcuffs on one wrist and another pair on one ankle. Tillman shot Mason three times in the head before turning the fourth bullet on himself.

The Women’s Resource Center on campus has been hosting and planning events throughout the year to help benefit local organizations like the MMC.

Women’s Resource Coordinator Jenny Whyte said one event is the annual Domestic Violence Awareness Night hosted by the Fresno State women’s softball team on April 16.

“Prior to the game, the Violence Prevention Project hosts ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,’ an event that focuses on men taking part in the campaign to end violence against women,” Whyte said. “The men don high heels, walk across campus and are invited onto the field before the game starts.”

Whyte said announcers provide statistics throughout the game to educate fans in attendence about domestic violence.

“The Violence Prevention Project and the Marjaree Mason Center are present at the game to provide information and to receive donations,” Whyte said.

The WRC will also be hosting the Vagina Monologues, an annual event that will take place on April 26. A portion of proceeds from the Vagina Monologues will go to the MMC.

Whyte said P.O.W.E.R., the women’s studies student club, has led the Vagina Monologue for the past several years.

“As part of V-Day, all proceeds must go to organizations that provide services to women who are victims of violence,” Whyte said. “The organizers have selected the Marjaree Mason Center as well as the Women’s Resource Center’s Violence Prevention Project to receive these proceeds the last couple of years.”

Whyte said she believes the total proceeds exceeded $5,000 last year.

The WRC and the MMC presented two informational workshops two weeks ago in honor of February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Jesse Rosales, kNOw More program coordinator, spoke at both workshops. Peer counselors were on-hand for questions and concerns. The kNOw More Program started as a teen relationship abuse prevention program that reaches out to more than 15 high schools and 10 intermediate schools in Fresno County.

Rosales discussed two main points: red flags, warning signs of abuse; and “That’s Not Cool” technology abuse.

Local businesses like Swiggs Bar and Sports gave a helping hand to the Marjaree Mason Center on Feb. 18, Random Acts of Kindness Day. Customers received a free serving of Vamp Fries and 10 percent off their total food bill by bringing in a MMC wish list item.

Items on the MMC wish list include pillows, plastic hangers, cooking utensils, standing fans, cribs, baby bottles, disposable wipes, books, office supplies and more.

Whyte said another way the WRC and the MMC collaborate is through the Campus and Community Response Team. She said that the CCRT is a group of people who come together to discuss issues concerning violence against women, best practices, changes in policy and more.

Justin Red, director of communications, said the employees at the MMC summarize the multiple services into four main categories: crisis support, legal assistance, counseling for adults and children, and shelter services.

Most of the services are offered at no cost to victims of domestic violence.

An emergency shelter is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The emergency shelter has 93 beds and 40 rooms. A 23-bed transitional shelter is available for women and children who need a longer length of stay.

Domestic violence is a term commonly misunderstood. Red said people tend to think of domestic violence as intimate partner violence, but it can also be abuse between partners who are no longer intimate, like ex-lovers.

“It is basically a cycle of power and control in a relationship where one partner is trying to control another partner,” Red said. “It doesn’t have to be just physical violence.”

Domestic violence can occur between men and men, women and women or more commonly, men and women.

“There is no sex barrier,” Red said.

Red said domestic violence includes emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and pressure through verbal or written threats. He said domestic violence could be a situation as simple as someone constantly keeping tabs on a partner 24 hours a day.

Women’s “Herstory” Month has just started this month and will carry forward for another four weeks. The long-lasting relationship between the MMC and the WRC will continue to grow with the support of the community.

“MMC and the WRC provide joint trainings and make referrals to each other,” Whyte said. “Our working relationship has been longstanding and remains strong, all in an effort to provide the best possible services to our clients.”

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