October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so designated by Congress in 1989. During this month, there’s a concentrated effort to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence, celebrate survivors, and connect those working to end such violent crime.
The Favor House of Northwest Florida serves victims of domestic violence in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Executive Director Sue Hand says in 2012 Santa Rosa had 648 reported incidents of domestic violence, while Escambia had 3,527 incidents. The Centers for Disease Control estimates only 25% of actual cases are reported.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in every four women in the U.S. will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Favor House is getting the message out with several billboards - that provide information about the local organization and most importantly display the shelter’s hotline number. Also, Favor House has produced a video that shares a story of survival. It chronicles the experiences of “Lakesha,” including the violent acts she endured from her abuser, her decision to leave, and the support she received at the emergency shelter.
In addition to their outreach offices across Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, Favor House shelters an average of 400-500 women and children for six thousand nights each year. Similar numbers are reported by the Shelter House of Northwest Florida, which serves Okaloosa and Walton counties. Michelle Sperzel is that shelter’s executive director.
Like Sue Hand, Sperzel and her staff at Shelter House are doing what they can to make it easier for women to make the decision to leave and get help. For example, one of their outreach programs is “Women and Money,” which teaches survivors and victims about how to save money and prepare their finances in order to leave. Also, Shelter House is addressing another barrier to leaving by allowing individuals to bring their pets; the shelter recently dedicated a new on-site Kind Heart Kennel.
To find out more about domestic violence in our community and what you can do to help, go online to www.favorhouse.org or www.shelterhousenwfl.org.