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Agency battling domestic violence hopes to grow
In the year since The DoVE Project opened, the small nonprofit has served nearly 50 Islanders dealing with domestic violence and has made considerable plans to grow beyond what it offers now.
Housed at Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS), DoVE offers a weekly support group and advocacy services, including helping people obtain protection orders and linking them to a range of needed resources on and off Vashon, according to program manager Tavi Black.
“It’s absolutely a valuable service on the Island, said Ken Maaz, executive director at VYFS. “(Domestic violence) is a very real issue. It’s definitely here on the Island, and we need to pay attention to it.”
The DoVE Project, a shortened name for Domestic Violence Ending, opened last April after a group of Islanders determined that domestic violence services on the Island are essential. In 2009, Vashon lost an advocate from the Tukwila-based Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) when that agency lost some of its funding. Prior to DAWN’s work on Vashon, Island Domestic Violence Outreach Services offered assistance, but that organization closed after the director embezzled funds.
In the aftermath of those events, a group of Islanders came forward to reestablish domestic violence services on Vashon.
Now, as DoVE moves into its second year, Black said she and the DoVE advisory board will continue to work on creating financial stability and expanding services. Come summer, DoVE will launch a hotline staffed by trained volunteers, whom she expects will be available 18 to 20 hours a day, she said. They will be able to field not just emergency phone calls, but other matters as well, including helping create safety plans, assisting with legal matters and filling the need for a range items and services — from obtaining an emergency cell phone to accompanying someone to court.
With those volunteers in place, Black said, she will be able to focus more of her energies on the administrative tasks of running the program, including tending to DoVE’s financial health.
Black was first hired with a $10,340 grant from the Vashon Healthy Community Network, she noted, sufficient funds for three months. Since then, grants from private agencies have sustained the organization, and Island fundraisers have garnered a small amount of money. VYFS provides office space and program support.
Currently, DoVE’s annual budget is $40,000, Black said, and next year, she and her board of advisors would like to see it grow to $100,000. To that end, they have recently hired a fund development consultant based in Seattle.
As it is now, the financial picture is stressful.
“We still do not know if we’re going to exist after this year,” Black said. “It keeps us with an eye to fundraising at all times.”
The increase in budget would allow for an increase in staff hours, she said, including on-Island advocates, which both she and Maaz believe are important.
In an average week, Black receives one to two calls from people either in crisis or needing services of some kind. Two weeks, ago, though, she said she fielded seven calls — a sizable increase with no obvious reason.
Black noted previous research has shown that when an organization is providing domestic violence services on the Island, it receives 50 to 60 calls a year. When no provider is here, as was the case from 2009 to 2011, outside domestic violence groups received only 12 calls from Vashon.
“That really shows there has to be a presence on the Island,” she said.
Part of Black’s work this past year was working to make sure DoVE is visible on the Island so that individuals as well as other service providers, from physicians to sheriff’s deputies, know whom to call when the need arises. In the program’s earliest months, she distributed fliers and posters and spoke to several faith communities. More recently, she has applied for a grant from Granny’s Attic to support training for Island health care providers and expects to hear this spring or summer if the grant will be awarded.
Once the hotline is in place and more funds are in hand, Black said she would like DoVE to be able to provide emergency shelter, send trained volunteers out with deputies when they receive domestic violence-related 911 calls and offer prevention programs in the school.
“We have big plans,” Black said. “We just need the funding.”
Maaz noted that the numbers of people the program has served so far may not seem like a lot to some, but those who received services are not the only ones who benefitted from them. Domestic violence does not just affect a spouse, but children and others close to those involved.
“It has tentacles that reach out,” he said. “It has far-reaching effects.”
Aware of the funding challenges in these lean times, Black is steadfast that services must remain on Vashon.
“It’s so isolating and shameful that everyone thinks that no one else could be going through what they’ve been going through. Survivors have to know they’re not alone. That’s the only way they’re going to get through it,” Black said.