October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
The statistics of violence against women are staggering: Every nine seconds a woman is abused is America; one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; 1.3 million women were abused by someone she knew last year.
In 2008, Arkansas was No. 4 in the nation in violence against women. In 2011, 12 females were murdered as a result of domestic violence.
Awareness is essential to prevention. However, domestic violence is the single most unreported and under-reported crime in America.
In June of this year, the local domestic violence shelter was forced to temporarily close. Since the 19890s, the Dove House had been available to women in Van Buren County who were victims of domestic violence.
The Dove House was forced to close temporarily was for a couple reasons. First, very few volunteers were available forcing the payroll to become greater than the income. The second reason is certain grants the Dove House was receiving had stipulations requiring the Dove House, which had been an exclusive domestic violence shelter, to take in anyone who was without housing. This, in turn, caused the payroll to be greater than the funds that the grants provided. Another stipulation in one of the grants called for the Dove House to have an open-ended length of stay for clients. Once again, having unlimited days of residence in the shelter caused payroll to skyrocket because of the lack of volunteers.
The board was faced with two decisions: close the doors permanently or close temporarily and restructure. The board chose the latter because of the increasing need of having a shelter in Van Buren County.
Along with choosing to temporarily close to restructure came many hard decisions such as no longer accepting the grants that carry cumbersome stipulations and to begin once again to rely on volunteers and private donations.
Along with rejecting one of the grants brought the decision to return to being an exclusive domestic violence shelter with limited residency. Therefore, the board had to address the homeless as well as a more permanent option for victims of domestic violence. Friendship Baptist Church has agreed to establish a place for non-domestic violence clients, both male and female, to stay temporarily.
The board is also in the beginning stages of a relationship with the Dorcas House, the largest domestic violence shelter in Arkansas. The Dorcas House will take in victims who need a more permanent situation than the Dove House can provide.
Since some of the grants are no longer going to be applied for, the Dove House will have to rely on volunteers for staffing and private donations for funding.
The board would like to establish one-fourth of the operating budget before reopening. The annual operating budget is $50,000. Once one-fourth — or $12,500 — is received, the Dove House will reopen. Currently the board has received approximately $3,000 toward reopening costs.
Residents of Van Buren County can become involved in this vital community outreach in several ways: volunteer, donate, or serve on the board.
To donate, volunteer or to become a board member, call 745-5657. If you or someone you know is need of help because of domestic violence, call 1-800-799-SAFE.