October 9, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Domestic violence month recognized

It’s not uncommon to celebrate a cause by declaring a month or a day in its honor.
For some causes, the point is not rejoicing, but bringing attention to the issue. Domestic violence is one such case.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Already the mayors of Iola and Chanute have issued proclamations in recognition.
Sadly, the need for awareness is increasing, said Hope Unlimited Director Dorothy Sparks.
“Ten years ago, our shelter units for the whole year were around 300. Now we’re doing that per quarter.”
A shelter unit is the equivalent of one night’s stay by a woman or child who has had to flee their home due to domestic violence. In 2009, Hope Unlimited provided 1,183 shelter units. Already this year, there is an increase in the number of patrons served, Sparks said.
“I think the economy, especially in the past couple of years, has added an extra stressor to families,” she said.
The load has risen so much that an additional caseworker had to be hired. “Luckily, we got a grant for that,” Sparks said.
The domestic violence advocate joined another already at the Iola office of Social and Rehabilitative Services, Sparks said.
Statewide, caseloads for domestic violence advocates runs about 20 clients per worker. At the Iola SRS office, the load was 90.
“Our numbers were the highest in the state,” Sparks said.

IN KANSAS, one of every 10 women reports domestic violence victimization, according to the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. That equates to about 100,000 women.
The number is always considered to be low, Sparks acknowledged, because domestic violence often goes unreported.
Many people, Sparks said, believe that domestic violence is apparent through bruises or other observable signs of battering. “I think that is a misconception,” she said. “Not all violence is physical.”
Emotional control, verbal abuse, financial control and other means of psychological torment are all forms of abuse, Sparks said.
“If someone lives with constant belittling, their self esteem suffers. Those wounds don’t heal,” she said.
“It seems odd, but the physical wounds are easier to recover from.”
Sometimes, domestic violence leads to death.
Across the state, from January through August of this year, “20 adults and six children have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence,” the Kansas Coalition reported.
Hope Unlimited is trying to raise awareness of such facts, and also to let Allen Countians know that they can do something to help.
They are kicking off a new campaign, “Do One Thing,” this month.
“Everybody can do one thing to help end domestic violence,” noted Visitation Center Coordinator Michelle Meiwes.
“That can be as simple as donating an item or donating time or reading a book to become more informed about domestic violence,” she said.
“We desperately need paper goods and household items like laundry detergent,” added victim advocate Cyndy Greenhagen. “Even $10 a month adds up.”
“Maybe you can bring one can of coffee or have two or three hours to answer phones,” Sparks said by way of example of other “one things” that can be done.
Help is also needed to winterize the shelter, she added.

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