A little sunshine goes a long way

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 23, 2003

Domestic violence is a problem for many communities, including those in Butler County.

If you ask the officers with the Greenville Police Department, they’ll tell you that the majority of the calls they receive each day are for domestic disturbances, many of which involve violence.

The Family Sunshine Center, a domestic abuse advocacy organization headquartered in Montgomery, is working to provide more services to our community that will help address the domestic violence issue.

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One of the services the Family Sunshine Center has developed through a recent one-year grant is the availability of tri-county rural outreach specialist Kathy Jones.

She is a licensed counselor and a licensed counselor supervisor.

&uot;I am here to assist you in developing programs for domestic violence advocacy,&uot; Jones said. &uot;I can provide counseling and conduct education programs.&uot;

Another of the services they hope to coordinate is a domestic violence task force.

Lisa Clark with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence is spearheading the effort for small towns and rural counties.

&uot;Alabama is unique in that it has 40 task forces set up throughout the state,&uot; Clark said. &uot;There are a lot of states that have one city that has a great task force. We are like no other state as far as our domestic violence task forces are concerned.&uot;

Clark said the task force is basically a coordination of services already in place.

Bill Bailey, assistant district attorney for Montgomery County and co-chairman of the Montgomery County Task Force, said the task forces were created to address the special needs of domestic violence victims.

&uot;Crime victims are usually people who have had their purses stolen or had something stolen from their store,&uot; Bailey said. &uot;Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, they won’t ever see the perpetrator again. On the other hand, domestic violence victims are usually still living with the perpetrator or have some type of family relationship with them, so they are going to see them again. It became apparent to us that we needed to assure the victim’s safety, get them help and see that they got justice.&uot;

Bailey said he couldn’t do that by himself as a prosecutor. The task force brings other organizations to the table to provide assistance and support for the victims. It streamlined the process and made help more accessible and feasible for victims of abuse and violence.

The problem is definitely close to home.

&uot;The Family Sunshine Center received a total of 81 calls from the tri-county area of Lowndes, Crenshaw and Butler Counties from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002,&uot; said Karen Sellers, Family Sunshine Center’s executive director during a community presentation at The Grill at Cambrian Ridge last Friday.

Of those calls, 19 were from Butler County, 15 from Crenshaw County and 47 were received from Lowndes County.

The center also provided shelter for one Butler County woman, four Crenshaw County women and nine from Lowndes County. Children from the three counties also were sheltered at the Family Sunshine Center: two from Butler, three from Crenshaw and 16 from Lowndes.

Sellers said the center’s most important center is the 24-hour crisis hot line, 1 (800) 650-6522.

&uot;It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,&uot; she said. &uot;We accept collect calls, and do not use caller ID, so if we have to return a call, the number doesn’t show up on her caller ID. We take every step possible to ensure safety.&uot;

Sellers pointed out several services the domestic violence shelter provides: clothing, food, shelter and help obtaining restraining orders.

The center also has a counseling center with an on-site medical facility.

Other services include support groups, batterers intervention program, education and outreach programs, legal/court advocacy programs, case aides, and the Exodus Community.

&uot;This is our newest program,&uot; Sellers said, &uot;a long-term transitional housing program providing domestic violence survivors with an opportunity to learn new skills that will help increase earning potential, while nurturing families toward self-sufficiency. The community currently has six families, with one that has graduated.&uot;

Fore more information, contact Kathy Jones at (334) 206-2100.