Shelter squashed, but awareness at a peak
The Milford safe house matter has resolved itself in a way that could leave behind bitterness and anger — on both sides.
But rather than focus on those negative feelings, which really are not productive, residents and proponents of a local safe house for battered women might chose instead to focus on a social issue that needs to be addressed, and ultimately help to create more safe places for battered women.
The Woodmont house is no longer being considered as a safe house. Neighborhood opposition and public disclosure of the address led to the BHCare decision to abandon the project. The agency, which bought the Woodmont house last year, had intended that it become a temporary safe house for up to 15 women and children escaping from dangerous domestic situations.
A number of residents opposed the plan, citing concern for their own safety and that of their families if dangerous spouses managed to find the women’s shelter. They said they also disagreed that the use of the house conformed to current single family zoning regulations. Bottom line, they said, Woodmont just wasn’t the right place.
Some residents are angry that the city allowed the shelter to be a possibility in their neighborhood. Others are angry that residents opposed the project and disclosed the address of the house. BHCare officials are upset that they are back to square one in terms of finding a safe house for women who need their help.
There is, however, some good that comes out of the entire situation. There is increased awareness, especially locally, of issues surrounding domestic violence and the need for refuge for battered women. It is true that there will not be a shelter for battered women in Woodmont, but throughout Woodmont and the rest of the city there are now any number of residents tuned into the cause who may not have been before.
We know statistics we may not have known before, including:
• According to DVRC-or.org, one in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
• Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men, depending on the type of survey used to obtain the data.
• Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
• Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
• Nearly 2.2 million people called a domestic violence crisis or hot line in 2004 to escape crisis situations, seek advice, or assist someone they thought might be victims.
Armed with information about domestic violence, there are no doubt residents with knowledge of certain issues who may now put that knowledge to use to help an agency like BHCare increase its services and find a new safe house location.
We encourage those moved by the situation not to criticize, condemn or judge either side, but rather to get involved. Someone with legal knowledge might help this group draft legislation, which exists in other states, that makes it illegal to publicize the address of safe houses.
Others may volunteer in other ways, perhaps helping with marketing, real estate searches, fund-raising, education and prevention programs.