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Stay Focused on Domestic Violence All Year

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

By Jay Bozievich

Domestic Violence Awareness Month recently ended, but our efforts to stop domestic violence and to end the silence should continue throughout the year. That is why I signed a Declaration of Support for the Lane Domestic Violence Council in October and pledge to end the silence.

It is also why the Board of Commissioners used $78,000 in car rental taxes to provide additional funds for the Human Services Commission, $50,000 specifically to prevent deep cuts to rural service providers like Siuslaw Outreach Services. Supporting organizations like Siuslaw Outreach Services and Womenspace financially or by volunteering are great ways of helping those fleeing abusive relationships and educating the public.

Unfortunately, our local economic conditions are not helping in the fight against domestic violence. Economic stress and domestic violence are interwoven and the economy of western Lane County has created a high degree of stress.  The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches in the rural and coastal school districts is far above the more urban districts. Siuslaw has 46.2% of students eligible, Lincoln County has 62.8%, Reedsport has 65.4%, Blachly has 67.5% and Mapleton has 71.2% of their students eligible! This compares to 36.5% eligible in Eugene School District 4j.

Efforts to escape domestic violence can also have devastating economic impacts. Leaving a relationship might mean losing a job, housing, health care, childcare, or access to a partner’s income. Economic hardship reduces options for someone leaving a bad relationship. A person escaping a violent relationship must be able to financially support themselves (sic) and their (sic) children after leaving an abusive partner. Short term housing and assistance are available from agencies like Siuslaw Outreach Services but these are often limited due to funding.

A Michigan study found that 63% of welfare recipients experienced physical abuse while the rate for the general public is closer to 20%. 51% of those Michigan welfare recipients experienced severe physical abuse during their lifetimes. In Oregon, approximately 80% of people requesting assistance from DHS Self Sufficiency list a history of domestic violence. Economic hardship does not cause domestic violence but economic pressure in homes that experience violence adds to it. It also limits the ability to leave a violent relationship.

A growing economy offers more opportunities to those trying to free themselves from domestic violence and that is why I support efforts to create economic opportunities in Lane County. That support includes projects that would upgrade our freight rail connections that will facilitate redevelopment of the abandoned and underutilized mill sites along the Siuslaw.  I have supported efforts to improve Highway 126 that brings tourist and goods to coastal Lane County. In addition, I support efforts to return to active management of our federal forests under a sustained yield model such as proposed by Congressmen DeFazio.

It is also why I supported the Women in Transition program at Lane Community College while I was on the Board of Education. This program helps women access education, training, and employment to become more self-sufficient.

We can all do our part to aid the victims of domestic violence and to help prevent it by contributing to organizations like Siuslaw Outreach Services and other agencies that provide housing, food, legal and other assistance to people impacted by domestic violence as well as education for the public. If you do not have financial resources to help, consider volunteering your time.

One of the simplest things we can do is to recognize that domestic violence is still a problem and promise not to remain silent when you become aware of it.  Encourage possible victims and/or abusers to get help. Have them contact Siuslaw Outreach services at 541-997-2816 or Womenspace’s 24-Hour Crisis Line at 541-485-6513 or 800-281-2800 toll free.

Together, we can make Domestic Violence Awareness Month last the entire year and help secure successful pathways out of violence.

Jay Bozievich is a Lane County Commissioner

Reprinted with permission from the Siuslaw News


One response to “Stay Focused on Domestic Violence All Year”

  1. Lauren Hesse says:

    I read Jay Bozievich’s comments in the recent communique from the Healthy Communities Initiative of Lane County. While I appreciate the sincerity of Mr. Bozievich’s efforts to inform readers about the impact of domestic violence, I want to add a bit to the story.

    Mr. Bozievich stated that the Mapleton School District “has 71.2% of their students eligible for free and reduced lunches.” What is more alarming is that, in fact, Mapleton Elementary School’s percentage is closer to 81%. Why the difference? Secondary students don’t want to be bothered by the meal service, and thus don’t turn in their forms, according to the school staff with whom I’ve spoken. In reality, 81 % or so of Mapleton School District families are living below poverty.

    What does this have to do with domestic violence? Re-read Mr. Bozievich’s own words “Economic hardship does not cause domestic violence but economic pressure in homes that experience violence adds to it. It also limits the ability to leave a violent relationship.”

    What can be done about the needs of children in such a community?

    I believe the Commissioner missed an opportunity to speak about what after school programs provide in the communities he mentions in Lane County.

    After school programs provide all participants a safe, nurturing place to get help with homework, academic and arts enrichment, and physical recreation after the school day. In most after school programs, a balanced, hot meal is served through the Child And Community Adult Food Program (CACFP.) The CACFP meals are reimbursable to an amount that actually pays for the job of the person who gets those meals warmed up and serves them to the students. .

    As I write this, I think about my 80 something neighbors, who might question: why do kids need to stay after school? Isn’t that what’s wrong with families? Why aren’t the kids going home to chores and siblings?

    We live in a different time. And people in poverty, like many people in Mapleton, live in entirely different circumstances. If the family is a two-parent family, often one parent works nights, perhaps at the Casino, a restaurant, or the hospital. The other might work a day job. Someone is sleeping when kids would come home. Or maybe neither parent is home; their schedules overlap later in the evening.

    More commonly, in my experience in Mapleton, the family is a single-parent family, or a foster family, or a grandparenting family. There may be only one car for the working adult; or, the family adult is care-giver to an ailing or disabled family member.

    Students in many schools register and attend the after school program for many reasons; I hope among those that the program is fun, healthy, and supportive. For parents, the program may be, bluntly, free child care. For many, it is a happy place their youngsters can socialize with peers under nurturing supervision. Parents who know about the program in Mapleton know that their children are not only getting daily help with homework, but an academic enrichment unit, an arts enrichment unit, and extra, safe, supervised time to run around and play with their social group. These kids are happy, learning, and out of trouble.

    What does all this have to do with Mr. Bozievich’s message? The Mapleton School District after school program is nearing the end of its Federal 21st Century Learning Center grant. In June, This program will end in June 2013, unless funds become available.

    What does this have to do with domestic violence?

    In these hard times, the high numbers using Lane County Food Share, high numbers of unemployed, and high numbers asking for assistance from the Siuslaw Outreach Services and/or the Department of Human Services speak for themselves: people are stressed, finances are stressed, and children are sometimes lost in the mire. Children need, and benefit from, a safe place to get the support, food, and activities that help them grow strong and succeed.

    I want to remind Mr. Bozeivich, and other politicians, that after school programs provide an extension, a safety net, for the children in our education system and in our communities. If the Federal Government is not able to support such programs, ask yourselves: will the community do better providing for these programs or letting them lapse? How does the Sheriff’s office feel? How does the Hospital feel? How do the teachers feel? How do the parents feel?

    In essence, this is a democratic decision.Demo is he root for people. Cracy is the root for government. Will the people ask for this service? Will the elected officials find a way to support it?

    Or will the children find a way to amuse themselves, while their parents work?