Editorial: A new effort is launched to tackle domestic violence

At a time when public programs are being dismantled for a lack of funds, it’s encouraging to see a handful of Islanders work to re-establish an Island-based domestic violence program on Vashon.

It won’t be easy. The last set of services — delivered by an advocate on Vashon who worked for the Tukwila-based Domestic Abuse Women’s Network — ended because of budget cuts at the county-level. That was two years ago. King County’s financial picture is only worse.

But a small group of Islanders, concerned about an unmet need they see on Vashon, is undeterred. We applaud their determination and wholly support their effort.

The task force, established by Vashon’s Healthy Community Network and chaired by Allison Shirk and Nancy Vanderpool, has been meeting regularly for nine months, gathering statistics about domestic violence, interviewing other King County-based providers and exploring options.

Their research underscores the need, as well as what happens when services aren’t available. During the two years that DAWN had an advocate on Vashon, 50 to 80 Islanders sought help of one fashion or another, according to statistics the group gathered. After that advocate left and only off-Island programs were available, the number of Islanders who sought help fell precipitously: 12 in 2009 and 14 in 2010.

Debra Boyer, a highly regarded social services researcher who was hired to take a look at the situation on Vashon, suggests why in a report issued last September. “Victims really do not know whom to call. There are no island resources, dissemination of information or outreach specifically dedicated to domestic violence.”

According to national and statewide statistics, domestic violence — most often directed at women — is prevalent and often severe. 

•  One in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime, according to a report issued in 2001.

•  One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. 

•  On average, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In Washington, a report cited by the state Department of Health states that at least 30 percent of all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner.

Vashon hasn’t experienced a domestic murder in several years. But advocates know that domestic violence is occurring here — just as it is happening everywhere. Indeed, only last week, a King County sheriff’s deputy took 30 minutes to respond to a non-emergency call in town. The reason, he told The Beachcomber: He and his partner were responding to a domestic violence incident that involved an arrest.

The Dove Project, as the new domestic violence program is called, is off to a good start, thanks to $10,340 in seed money it received from the Healthy Community Network. But if it’s to become a full-fledged program in this day of limited public funding, Islanders will need to help. A tireless group of volunteers has started the effort. Let’s now step forward to help sustain it. 

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