Opinion

Hard times escalate need for human services | Guest Column | Nov. 26

The City Council discussion of the potential move of our municipal court has brought to light the not often discussed issue of domestic violence in our community.

In particular, the council and community have raised real concerns regarding the issues of access to court services and safety for victims and witnesses attending court proceedings.

Discussions are happening to ensure that wherever the court is located, our city and community continue to serve those who are most vulnerable.

These challenging economic times put a further strain on families experiencing domestic violence, so the need for services is even more critical.

For that reason, we felt that now would be an excellent time to take a moment to consider the issue of domestic violence in our community, to understand what services are available and to consider where we can all best offer our support for these services.

Domestic violence can strike in any town, any family, and any socio-economic background. Most victims are women, but men are victims as well.

Children in the household are adversely affected whether they witness the abuse or not.

A 2004 Washington State Department of Health Report found that one in five Washington women experiences domestic violence sometime in her life.

To date, 48 orders for protection pertaining to domestic violence have been filed with Bainbridge Island Municipal court this year.

Such orders are routinely sought and granted in domestic violence cases. The actual number of domestic violence incidents is probably much higher, as national studies indicate that most incidents are never reported to the police.

Assistance for domestic violence victims locally is available from the Bainbridge Island Police Department, the Municipal Court, Helpline House, and the YWCA ALIVE Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap program. Officers also provide information about the ALIVE at domestic violence-related calls.

ALIVE offers a wide range of services to survivors of domestic violence, whether they have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

In the past year, 100 slanders and 80 North Kitsap residents have utilized ALIVE’s services. Advocates offer guidance through the judicial process, including accompaniment to hearings and assistance with orders for protection.

The program addresses survivors’ immediate needs such as providing safe shelter, transportation and food.

Safety planning, support groups and individual advocacy-based counseling are available. ALIVE works closely and often in concert with Helpline House, which also provides much-needed resources to survivors. Counseling is also available at Helpline House.

If you would like to support services for domestic violence victims in our community, consider contacting YWCA and/or Helpline House.

And if someone you care about is in need of assistance, encourage them to reach out for help. YWCA ALIVE has a 24-hour hotline, 1-800-500-5513.

Information for this column was provided by: Barbara Saur of the YWCA’s ALIVE program; Donna Dahlquist and Joanne Tews Helpline House; City Councilor Kirsten Hytopoulos, Debbi Lester.

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Human services agencies need your help

YWCA ALIVE can use both monetary and in-kind donations. Email bink@ywcakitsap.org or call (206) 780-2931 for more information.

Financial donations can be mailed to: YWCA ALIVE, P.O. Box 137, Rolling Bay, WA, 98061. You may designate “Emergency Client Fund” on the check memo line if you would like your donation to provide critical resources to survivors in crisis in our community.

More funds would allow the program to provide cell phones, hotel vouchers for emergency stays, financial help to change locks, or pay moving costs.

Funding donations for Helpline House can be sent to: 282 Knechtel Way NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. For more information, please email helpline@helplinehouse.org or call (206) 842-7621.

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