DoVE sees growing demand for services

Vashon’s anti-domestic violence program has seen its number of clients grow significantly this year, prompting organizers to beef up fundraising efforts for services they say are critical for many islanders.

The DoVE Project — short for Domestic Violence Ending — will hold a fundraiser at Saucy Sisters Pizza next Tuesday, when a portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to the nonprofit.

“It’s not that the problem is getting worse, it’s that more people are hearing about DoVE and coming to talk to us and getting the support we provide,” said Elizabeth Archambault, who became the organization’s executive director earlier this year. “Because of that, we would also like to ask for community support.”

DoVE was founded a little over two years ago, filling a void left after a Tukwila-based program, DAWN, pulled its Vashon services in 2009.

Partnering with Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS), DoVE doubled its number of clients between 2011 and 2012, providing a crisis hotline, survivor support groups, one-on-one support and safety planning for victims, as well as assistance with emergency housing, childcare and legal needs.

The organization is on its way to more than doubling its clients again in 2013, Archambault said. As of mid-May, DoVE had answered 113 hotline calls, compared with 117 during all of 2012. It had also helped 14 women file protection orders — already nearly three times the number who filed last year.

In the first quarter of the year, DoVE’s trained advocates provided one-on-one assistance and safety planning to 27 individuals, compared with 32 in all of last year. And 16 women attended DoVE-sponsored support groups in the first quarter of the year, compared with 17 during all of last year.

“We fully expect those rates to continue to rise,” Archambault said.

Archambault, a former refugee worker who moved to Vashon last year and volunteered for DoVE before taking the helm at the organization, said she didn’t know how many islanders former anti-domestic violence organizations, such as DAWN, served. But she believes DoVE’s numbers are increasing because of the work former director Tavi Black did to grow the organization, as well as the fact that more and more women and men are aware of what DoVE offers. After DAWN left, she said, women either went off-island for domestic violence support or simply didn’t get help.

“If we weren’t around, they would need to go off-island, and that’s a huge barrier for a lot of people,” she said, adding that the trip is especially hard for mothers and those with low incomes.

Last month DoVE received its official nonprofit status, something Archambault called a huge step for the organization. It will no longer depend on VYFS as a fiscal sponsor, she said, and will have more flexibility as an independent organization. It also has a newly constituted 11-member board with several new faces.

“Domestic violence is such a problem on Vashon, it makes sense for us to stand on our own two feet to address the implications and provide assistance as our own organization, instead of married with someone else,” Archambault said.

Craig Beles, a lawyer who recently joined DoVE’s board, said he thinks many Vashon residents don’t realize that domestic violence is just as prevalent on Vashon as it is in other places.

“It’s sort of secret in areas like Vashon,” he said. “It’s a pastoral, peaceful place, and (people think) this doesn’t happen here, when in fact it does. There’s so much of it.”

Archambault said she hasn’t been been surprised at DoVE’s numbers. Studies have found domestic violence rates tend to be consistent everywhere, she said, regardless of location or socioeconomic factors.

Data from a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that 35 percent of heterosexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. The same is true for 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women.

If this data were applied to Vashon, Archambault said, that means roughly 2,000 women and girls on the island are either survivors of domestic violence or are at danger of being abused. The same statistics for men indicate that about 1,500 Vashon men could be victims of domestic violence or at risk of being abused.

“It means statistically one in three people are touched in one way or another by domestic violence,” said Kathi Jenkins, another DoVE board member. “It could be our neighbors; it could be the people I stand next to at the grocery store. … I don’t believe the community knows what the needs are.”

In addition to sustaining services for a greater number of island women and some men as well, the nonprofit is looking to move into its own offices — Archambault and DoVE’s two part-time advocates currently work from home. The nonprofit is also working to grow its outreach efforts, putting on community and school programs on domestic violence awareness. In some settings, Archambault said, it still seems taboo to discuss domestic violence. For instance, at a recent DoVE event, an audience member commented to an abuse survivor that she must have been embarrassed to tell her story in front of a group.

The violence will be easier to address, Archambault said, when victims aren’t shamed and the community can openly discuss the problem.

“You can really start to turn it around instead of putting a Band Aid on it,” she said. “You can stop it before it starts.”

About half the of the organization’s revenue currently comes from private donations and the other half from grants. While island supporters have been generous — one anonymous donor recently gave $10,000 — it’s clear, Archambault said, that DoVE will need to grow its fundraising on both ends to meet the growing demand on the island.

“I’m working on grants every single day,” she said.

And board members hope that as more people learn about DoVE and the number of islanders it serves, more will be moved to give, perhaps starting with next week’s fundraiser at Saucy Sisters.

“It doesn’t take much on the part of a number of people to make a big difference,” Beles said.

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