Domestic violence and abuse prevention is an area that United Way of Whatcom County knows is an important need for our community. Partnered with other local agencies, United Way provides funds and support to programs that are making a positive move to end abuse and domestic violence. By uniting and providing these funds and services, Whatcom County can make a significant impact on incidences of abuse and domestic violence.
Since 2004 domestic violence assaults have been decreasing per capita, as reported to the Bellingham Police Department and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. However, the number of calls and the severity of assaults seem to be increasing according to shelters that care for victims of domestic violence.
United Way Partner Agency, Domestic violence and Sexual Assualt Services' (DVSAS) Safe Housing Program, saw a more than 54% increase in women and children staying at least one night in their safe housing shelter last year.
Another DVSAS program, funded through United Way, has seen a similar increase in their programs and danger-level assessments according to Jenn Mason, Development Director at DVSAS. Their organization served 1,566 survivors of violence and sexual assualt and recieved more than 4,300 helpline calls in 2015.
Lydia Place, another United Way Partner Agency, which offers transitional residence for families looking to achieve housing stability, also serves many women and children that have been victims of domestic violence.“Four or five years ago we would get people trying to run away from abuse, or who had mental problems but it was never a mix,” says Mindy Kuyper, Case Management Supervisor at Lydia Place. “But now, it seems we are getting people with a number of these dilemmas all at once and most of the people we see don’t even realize there was domestic violence in their life.”
Positive strides have been made in the community on many levels to help tackle this issue. The number of people seeking out ways of prevention has significantly increased. DVSAS reported 85% of clients surveyed agreed that they were better able to address reactions to trauma because of services received.
The number of people interested in volunteering for domestic violence prevention programs/classes has also grown. Many times individuals who have been helped feel empowered to help others in the same situation.
“We had a previous client who expressed that prior to DVSAS she didn’t have a voice, and DVSAS gave her one,” Mason says. “Now, she wants to be the voice for survivors of abuse and reach out to the community. It’s really empowering.”
Not only are adults beginning to see an increase in prevention programs, children are seeing a brighter future as well. Thanks to a number of United Way funded programs and services dedicated to ending child cruelty, Whatcom County has begun to see a decline in physical and sexual child abuse.
Brigid Collins Family Support Services, a partner agency of United Way of Whatcom County, has been working towards “breaking the cycle of child abuse.” Their programs focus on family interaction and parenting-based classes. In the last year, their child advocacy center has seen fewer cases recorded. One of their newest programs, Incredible Years, has been praised as a “life-saving event.”
“Our training advocacy center hosts ‘how to prevent sexual child abuse’ classes all around the community,” says Dana Brown, Events Coordinator for Brigid Collins. “For every one person that takes this class, up to ten kids can be saved.”
Recently a Brigid Collin’s client received custody of her child after she had put herself through school and took the Growing Together class at Brigid Collins. She gives most of her thanks to Brigid Collins for helping her change her life and getting her beloved child back.
“Thanks to the success of the programs we offer, we have women and children come back just to check in with old case managers or to find ways they can give back to our organization and the community,” Brown says. Lydia Place also has past clients check in as they get older.
“Recently a young boy came by Lydia Place and I was amazed by what he told me. He simply said, ‘I was just showing my friend the house I used to live in. You guys helped my mom and me so much. We’re doing great now.’ It made me so happy to hear that.” says MaryAnn Schmitt, Family Services Coordinator for Lydia Place.
One contribution to United Way helps to support several programs that focus on the root causes of domestic violence and child abuse. With the dedication of local agencies and United Way funds, working together we can all help to create a brighter future free of violence and abuse, and that’s what it means to LIVE UNITED!
Updated May 2014