Options rising up to an alarming challenge
Editor's note: This is the next in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.
By CHARLOTTE LINSNER
Special to The Hays Daily News
Webster's defines a challenge as "to confront boldly."
Josh Dreher, United Way of Ellis County campaign chairman, states in his radio message, "When a neighbor needs a helping hand, we reach out and give it."
That type of commitment to others within our community makes Ellis County one of the best places to live and raise a family. Josh's statement definitely holds true for the victims of domestic, sexual, dating and stalking violence.
The funding Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services receives from United Way of Ellis County supports a portion of the safe shelter and 24-hour hotline services.
These vital life-saving services are essential for victims' and their families' safety.
A survey conducted by the Mary Kay Foundation in 2012 brings staggering realization to the issues surrounding domestic violence and safe shelter services. The survey's detailed national findings reveal alarming trends in light of the economy's decline since 2008. More than 730 domestic violence shelters across the country were surveyed with the following results:
* 78 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide (nearly eight of 10) report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse.
* 74 percent of survivors stayed with an abusive partner longer because of financial issues.
* 58 percent of shelters reported that the abuse is more violent now than before 2008.
* 87 percent of domestic violence shelters (nearly nine of 10) expect their overall situation during the next 12 months will be worse than now, or the same as now.
* 95 percent reported survivors needed to stay in shelters for longer durations of time.
* Of shelters that were forced to reduce services, 47 percent decreased childcare efforts, which meant they were not able to help one in four children.
* 86 percent of shelters witnessed negative social effects on children such as bullying or withdrawal.
* 62 percent reported young women (age 12 to 24) are requesting help in greater numbers.
* 92 percent of shelters had to end or scale back specific programs and services.
Options has experienced similar results indicated by the survey. The survey's overwhelming trends are remarkably similar in each region of the United States -- Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
A recent client reveals the importance of Options advocacy services as she weathered the storms of an abusive relationship and the journey back to living a non-abusive life style.
"Although I have the support of family and friends, they do not completely understand the complicated structure of a domestic violence relationship. Options staff does -- and that alone has been an amazing amount of support as I have gone through the process of leaving the abusive relationship," she said.
The people of Ellis County have definitely "boldly confronted" issues through the years. Regardless of the issue (fighting wars on foreign soils, failing crops, lack of moisture, bad economic times or helping others when they are down), northwest Kansas residents continually "rise up."
For more than 30 years, Ellis County residents have supported Options' services and "Risen Up to the Challenge" by helping those persons who find themselves victims of violence. The victims wish to thank the citizens and want each of you to know your support does not go unrecognized.
United Way of Ellis County is currently engaged in their yearly fundraising campaign. Options, along with 13 agencies providing advocacy and support services throughout Ellis County, urge each citizen to contribute to the campaign for the betterment of your fellow citizens and the community as a whole.
Charlotte Linsner is executive director of Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.