New domestic violence program begins to take shape on Vashon

Vashon’s Healthy Com-munity Network is providing the seed money to launch a new program to help victims of domestic violence, filling a void that has existed for more than two years, when Vashon lost its last Island-based domestic violence advocate. 

The $10,340 grant, ap-proved earlier this month, will be used to hire Islander Tavi Black to act as the coordinator of the new effort, fund some training for her, start a support group and print brochures. A task force that has been working on this issue for the past nine months will also work with the Healthy Community Network to host fundraisers, seek additional grants and lobby King County for funds, said Allison Shirk, who serves as the co-chair of the domestic violence task force.

“We’re looking forward to ... being able to provide services on Vashon Island again, which was obviously the best service model that existed when it was here,” Shirk said.

Black, who also serves on the task force, agreed. “What really became obvious to us is that having an on-Island presence really makes a difference,” she said. Without that, she added, “We feel that people don’t know where to turn.”

Vashon advocates have been concerned about adequate support for victims of domestic violence for years. At one time, Vashon had its own program — Island Domestic Violence Outreach Services (IDVOS) — which had two advocates and a strong presence on the Island. But it stumbled financially and ultimately fell apart in the wake of an embezzlement scandal; its director pled guilty to first-degree theft in November 2005.

In 2006, after Islanders lobbied the county for funds to support domestic violence services on Vashon, the Tukwila-based Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) secured enough funding to hire a full-time Island-based ad-vocate. She was transferred off the Island early in 2009 after DAWN lost some of its county funding.

DAWN continued to offer services to Vashon from its Tukwila office. But both Black and Shirk said their research suggests it was a model that didn’t work. According to numbers they gathered, 50 to 80 Islanders turned to DAWN or IDVOS for support over the last several years. For the last two years, with no on-Island domestic violence program or advocate, only 12 to 14 Islanders sought support from one of the regional programs that assists victims.

The huge drop in the numbers suggests going off-Island for support “is not working,” Shirk said. “The numbers show people are not successful in getting the services they need.”

The new program, which will be called the Dove Project, is partnering with Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS), which is providing the small start-up with office space and other office support. Whether the program stays with VYFS or becomes its own separate entity has not yet been decided, Shirk said.

Black’s contract lasts until June 30. By that time, Black and Shirk said, they hope to have enough funds in hand to continue the program. The group, for instance, plans to host an all-women’s concert on May 13 at the Red Bicycle. A purple-bracelet campaign will also be launched sometime next month, and a Zumba-thon — two hours of the popular dance-exercise class — will be hosted on Mother’s Day, with the proceeds going to the Dove Project.

The Healthy Community Network funded the new effort through grant money it received from the state’s Family Policy Council. But Claudia Gross Shader, who chairs the Healthy Community Network, said those funds are drying up; state lawmakers, looking to cut $5 billion from the state’s budget, have already drastically slashed the council’s budget.

“The challenge for us will be to develop a plan for ongoing funds for these services,” Gross Shader said.

“It’s clear from the data that there’s a need for ongoing domestic violence services on the Island,” she added. “It’s our intention that domestic violence victims never again go without on Vashon Island.”


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