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Published: Wednesday, 10/11/2006

Purple points out crisis of domestic abuse

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - If you see purple ribbons dangling from trees or purple lights illuminating neighbors' porches this month, it's all part of a concerted effort to break the silence and stigma surrounding domestic violence.

Officials with Monroe County's Family Counseling and Shelter Services are marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month by making residents aware that, despite the agency's 40 years of operation, there is still a great deal of work ahead.

There were 506 domestic violence charges, six aggravated domestic violence cases, and eight felony domestic violence cases in Monroe County in 2005, according to Sharon Ott, the shelter's manager.

In 2005, the Monroe Safe House, which is the agency's domestic violence shelter, housed 74 families in its 18-bed facility.

While the facility's capacity is 24 people plus children, Ms. Ott said the doors remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We will never turn away a Monroe County resident," she said. "If we are filled up and we get a crisis call, we will put them in a hotel if need be until we free up some space."

The shelter fielded 527 calls in 2005 from victims who wanted to talk, use the agency's services, or build a "safety plan," which is a way to get out of an unstable family environment.

Donated food and furniture is given to victims who have broken away from abusive relationships and wish to set up homes of their own.

The agency's annual budget is about $315,000, which is met through federal and state grants, individual and corporate donations, and help from the local United Way.

This month, Family Counseling and Shelter Services is encouraging individuals and businesses to drape the city, or pin their shirts, with purple ribbons and to replace their lights with purple light bulbs with the hope that all this purple - an emblem of the battered women's movement - will prompt positive change.

The agency has display boards in most of the county's libraries with information, statistics, and lists of services for those affected by domestic violence.

The agency's eight staff members will give presentations throughout the month at schools and human service agencies in the community.

Monroe County's Family Counseling and Shelter Services Inc. has three facilities - the shelter, a main office that offers counseling services, and a Children's Center that opened in February.

WRVF-FM (101.5) awarded the Children's Center a $14,000 grant yesterday in recognition of its invaluable service to the community.

"We have about 200 children in the county foster care system right now [who] have been removed from their families because of abuse and neglect," said David Stadler, the Family Counseling and Shelter Services' executive director.

"Our declining automobile industry, our declining economy, is driving the need for our services higher, but at the same time we are seeing funding go down," Mr. Stadler said.

The main office offers domestic-violence prevention and anger-management programs to help stop such behavior.

The Family Counseling and Shelter Services' main office is at 14930 LaPlaisance Road, Suite 106, and the Children's Center is at 621 South Monroe St.

Ms. Ott is asking residents to drop off old cell phones at the main center this month so victims can use them if they ever need to call 911.

The shelter's address is kept confidential for safety reasons, and is only given out to people after over-the-phone assessments are conducted.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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