Expressing his wish that it could be more, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders presented more than $10,000 in checks to three local domestic violence shelters Wednesday, September 30 at County Courthouse.
The Rose Brooks Center, Inc., Hope House, Inc. and Newhouse each received $3,723.36 from the fund the Jackson County Board of Domestic Violence Shelters administers. The County's domestic violence fund is generated through a $10 fee on all marriage licenses issued in the County.
After reading the specific chapter of the County Code spelling out the Board of Domestic Violence Shelters' duties, Sanders joked that it was "language only a lawyer could love," but he added, "That language serves a good purpose. The purpose of this fund is to help people escape the cycle of violence. We have an obligation to the victims of these crimes. Sadly, no community is free of domestic violence. In Jackson County we work to assist these essential organizations in offering victims a safe haven and a new start."
Sanders cited some grim numbers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Statistical Analysis Center's (SAC) 2008 crime report. During '08, 31,632 domestic violence incidents were reported in Missouri -- an average of one every 16 minutes. Meanwhile, the number of such incidents in Jackson County topped more than seven per day with a total of 2,794. (Statewide, there were 54 domestic violence-related homicides in 2008.)
"These are just the incidents reported to law enforcement," stressed Sanders. "For every incident reported, there are potentially three or four times as many that go unreported. The numbers are staggering."
And the numbers are getting worse. "The number of incidents is increasing, not decreasing," Sanders said.
More Support Needed
"We are very appreciative of the County's support," said Hope House President/CEO Mary Anne Metheny, "but we are seeing an increased need for our services."
Metheny, speaking on behalf of all three shelters, urged support of introducing a measure in the Missouri Legislature to increase the current $10 fee included in the marriage license fee and allotted for the domestic violence fund.
Expressing her support for all efforts to bolster funding for programs concerning domestic violence, County Legislator Theresa Garza Ruiz (1st District At-Large) noted that she campaigned as an advocate for women's issues and said, "Domestic violence is more than a women's issue. It is a family issue."
Joining Sanders and Garza Ruiz in presenting the checks were Kansas City Councilwoman Melba Curls (3rd District At-Large) and three other members of the County Board of Domestic Violence Shelters, Lisa Pelofsky, Lanna Ultican and Kelly La Rae Williams.
As he handed out the checks, Sanders thanked each of the shelter providers for the vital work they do on behalf of victims, and he said, "I wish I could add some zeroes to those dollar figures."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENTS
The Missouri State Highway Patrol's Statistical Analysis Center defines a domestic violence incident" in the following fashion:
"Domestic violence incidents are reported whether or not an arrest is made and include any dispute arising between spouses, former spouses, persons with child(ren) in common regardless of whether they reside together, persons related by blood, persons related by marriage, non-married persons currently residing together, and non-married persons who have resided together in the past. Domestic violence incidents are reported when an officer believes a dispute crosses an abuse threshold as indicated by harassment, stalking, coercion, assault, sexual assault, battery, or unlawful imprisonment."