The Coast News Group
Kathy Scharbarth, 34, lost her life to domestic violence. Since her death, a law has been enacted in her name to help protect victims. Photo courtesy Ginny Scharbarth

Tragedy prompts local family to help children of domestic violence victims

CARLSBAD — Kathy Scharbarth lost her life to domestic violence. The 34-year-old was strangled to death on her birthday by her ex-boyfriend. Prior to burying her in a shallow grave in a remote canyon, the murderer severed her hands.

The tragedy left a child without a mother, parents without a daughter, and siblings without a sister.

As the Scharbarths “wrapped their heads” around a guilty plea deal that sidestepped the death penalty, Kathy’s murderer hung himself in his jail cell.

Devastated but resolute to help end the pervasive cycle of domestic violence, the Scharbarth family established Kathy’s Legacy Foundation, giving voice to a victim no longer able to do so.

“Kathy’s Legacy Foundation was established in Kathy’s memory to inspire dreams, change lives, and revive hope,” said Ginny Scharbarth, the foundation’s co-founder, executive director and “most importantly, Kathy’s mom.”

“Living life to the fullest, Kathy inspired change,” she continued. “I — we, Kathy’s loved ones — were determined to honor Kathy’s memory not for her murder, but for all the good that she did.”

The Carlsbad foundation, noted as a “positive outcome from an unfathomable tragedy,” collaborated with the San Diego District Attorney’s office to establish Silver Lining, programs that support children victimized by domestic violence homicide.

Scharbarth navigates through San Diego’s Victim Advocacy Program to fund Silver Lining guardianships, adoptions, and therapy for those orphaned by the death of one parent and the imprisonment of another.

Silver Lining funding also fulfills medical and dental needs — including orthodontics — as well as dance, art, surfing and gym classes. Children are “gifted” the opportunity for “normalcy.”

“Because Victim Advocacy Programs become significantly limited after adjudication, we assist guardians — usually grandparents or family members on a fixed income — with needs that would otherwise go unmet because they’re unaffordable,” Scharbarth said. “Silver Lining gives children the opportunity to be children and lead lives not identified by tragedy.”

Kathy’s Legacy Foundation has also partnered with the San Diego Humane Society to find ways to co-shelter pets caught in the crossfire of domestic violence.

Research from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows that more than 70% of domestic abuse households include injury, death or a threat thereof, to pets by abusers to psychologically manipulate, control or seek revenge. Often times victims refuse to leave, fearing for the safety of their pets as most shelters aren’t equipped to include animals.

“The San Diego Humane Society and Kathy’s Legacy share the same passion and resolve to find ways to assist people and pets suffering in domestic violence situations,” said Scharbarth. “Animals also suffer at the hands of abuse. Lady, Kathy’s beloved yellow lab, was victimized by Kathy’s death. Saddened by Kathy’s absence, she just laid her head on the floor. She was never the same again.”

The Scharbarths are no strangers to sharing a public platform. Kathy’s Legacy Foundation was established upon the inception of Kathy’s Law, Assembly Bill 2467. Authored by California Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista) and signed into law by former Gov Jerry Brown, the law allows judges to order perpetrators of domestic violence to wear electronic monitoring in conjunction with court-ordered restraining orders.

“Kathy’s Law keeps Kathy Scharbarth’s memory alive and helps to prevent similar future tragedies,” said Hueso. “Before Kathy’s Law, domestic violence victims had little recourse against their abusers beyond a restraining order, which is just a piece of paper. Kathy’s Law puts protections into tangible form and, as a result, saves lives.”

Kathy’s Law received bipartisan and law enforcement support from the California Sheriff’s Association and the Carlsbad and Chula Vista police departments.

“The San Diego Sheriff and police departments receive over 16,000 domestic violence calls every year,” said Scharbarth. “That’s a lot. Kathy’s Law makes a difference for those who live in fear.”

Domestic violence statistics indicate that one in four women and one in seven men experience domestic violence, usually at the hands of a spouse or partner. One in seven children are added into the mix.

Evidence also suggests that there are more domestic violence victims per capita in California than noted within the national average.

“I didn’t understand domestic violence until the police officer told me that Kathy was its victim,” said Scharbarth. “And Kathy did everything right. Although there were no signs of physical abuse, when the verbal and emotional abuse escalated, Kathy ended the relationship and moved. When stalked, badgered and harassed by incessant calls, emails, texts, and voicemails, she got a restraining order. Two weeks later, on Thanksgiving eve, her ex snuck into her home and laid in wait to strangle her.

“I urge everyone to understand their relationship rights and recognize the red flags of abuse,” she said. “Never minimize verbal abuse. Things can escalate quickly as they did with Kathy.

Public events and private donations fund Kathy’s Legacy Foundation. The website includes “pages of resources” of agencies the Scharbarths have partnered with that initiate the process of protection.

“Kathy’s Legacy Foundation serves children and pets impacted by domestic violence,” Scharbarth said. “We revive hope, restore normalcy, and inspire dreams in the lives of all victims of intimate partner violence.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

San Diego Domestic Violence Hotline (888) DV-LINKS (385-4657)

Women’s Resource Center

Women’s Resource Center provides counseling, shelter, and education to North San Diego County women, men and children victimized by domestic violence or sexual assault. 24-Hour Hotline: (760) 757-3500

San Diego YWCA

San Diego YWCA provides domestic violence victims emergency shelter 24/7.  Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline; emergency and short-term shelter; longer-term housing; comprehensive housing solutions; and integrated services for victims.

24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline Tel: 619-234-3164


San Diego YWCA Becky’s House® Domestic Violence Programs

A regional emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their children. Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline; therapeutic counseling; children’s and youth services; employment assistance; transitional housing; housing coordination; and rental assistance.

San Diego YWCA The Vi McKinney Becky’s House® Shelter
The Vi McKinney Becky’s House Shelter, provides domestic violence victims short-term emergency shelter. Services include safety planning, case management; legal services; therapeutic counseling; and housing stability.

San Diego YWCA Becky’s House® Transitional Housing
Becky’s House transitional housing provides longer-term housing and supportive services for individuals and families of domestic violence. Services include case management, therapeutic counseling; legal assistance; children’s and youth services; education; and employment development in order to obtain permanent housing.

San Diego Family Justice Center

The San Diego Family Justice Center serves children and adults. Services include safety, legal aid, counseling, food, clothing, spiritual support, and medical assistance.

(866) 933-HOPE or (866) 933-4673

Center for Community Solutions

Center for Community Solutions (CCS) operates a 24-hour toll free county-wide crisis line for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in San Diego.

Tel: 858-272-5777; 888-385-4657