Soroptimist International's Seattle Metropolitan club honored two women this week for escaping from domestic violence and seeking to better their lives.

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Frances used to hold her breath wondering when the next argument with her husband would end in violence for her or her daughter.

As she tried to balance her volatile marriage with school, there were nights she wouldn’t study for fear her husband would tear up or hide her homework.

For a while, the relationship, however abusive, was more important than the damage it caused — until she called a domestic-violence agency, packed up with her child and left.

On Wednesday, a local women’s organization recognized Frances for taking action.

Soroptimist International’s Seattle Metropolitan club awarded Frances $2,500 and another woman $2,000 for bettering their lives. The Women’s Opportunity Award and the money that comes with it are meant to help them pursue their education.

“We hope to show women who have had a lot of obstacles in their life that there is hope for higher education and hope for their families,” said club President Pat Griffith.

The award, given out each year, selects women based on need, whether they have dependents, and what they plan to do with their education.

Soroptimist International began to recognize women in 1972 as part of its mission to help girls and women around the world.

Frances, who is deaf, was able to leave her abusive relationship for a shelter. By using resources available to victims of domestic violence, including Domestic Violence Ended (DOVE) and Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS), she was able to relocate.

“It took me a very long time and many incidents before I finally fully accepted that he wasn’t going to change and I was better off alone,” she said in an email.

The Seattle Times is not using the award recipients’ full names because of their history with domestic violence.

With support from the agencies, Frances moved to Seattle, recently giving birth to her second daughter. She enrolled at the University of Washington to study business and psychology and plans to become an advocate for domestic-violence victims when she graduates.

The other woman receiving the award felt the same fear as Frances. The abuse from her husband was so bad, she said, she called police. Eventually, they divorced. Every year, nearly 10,000 calls related to domestic violence are made to Seattle police dispatch, according to spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. Of those calls, about 1,900 result in arrests.

Abused spouses have to be strong, the second winner said, “so that these abusers don’t think they have control over us and we have no voice.”

Now attending North Seattle Community College to study nursing, she’ll graduate in June to pursue a job in pediatrics. She hopes to eventually earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Griffith says the experiences of these women can inspire others to take charge of their lives.

The award is as important as the money for many of the women because it gives them hope, she said.

Frances will also be nominated on the club’s international level. If she is selected as a worldwide winner, she will receive $10,000.

“It is really important to step out of the dark hole and ask for help,” Frances said. “It is not an easy journey, but it will be so worth it when you look back and say, ‘Wow, I actually got out of it.’ “

Mary Jean Spadafora: 206-464-2168 or