Friday, February 08, 2002

Shelter researches scope of abuse

By Tish Williams
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — A comprehensive effort is under way to assess domestic violence in fast-growing Warren County and to create a countywide plan for family violence prevention.

[photo] Sandy Smooth of Family Children First (left), Janet Hoffman of Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter, and Laura Sutherlan of Warren County Juvenile Court prepare for an educational program promoted by the shelter.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “We intend to research every possible aspect of family abuse,” said Janet Hoffman, executive director of the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter in Warren County. “Everything from investigation of existing services and examination of root causes of partner, child and elder abuse, to recommendations and solutions.”

        The project, which began late last year, is funded through a $100,000 grant from the Anthem Foundation. A 30-member steering committee includes representatives from local and county government, law enforcement, justice system, social service agencies, education, business and clergy.

        Mrs. Hoffman said the data-gathering in relation to domestic violence is needed because of the rapid growth in Warren, the state's second-fastest-growing county.

        “We're just trying to get a grasp on what is happening ... things are changing so much,” she said.

        The crisis shelter was founded by a grassroots citizens' group in 1984. Mrs. Hoffman, a Dayton native with degrees from the University of Dayton and Central Michigan University, came to the shelter 15 years ago after directing a domestic violence shelter and sexual assault program in upstate New York.

        Last year, 130 women and their children were housed in the agency's 13-bed shelter, where they can reside for up to 30 days. During that time, they receive counseling and other help in resolving their problems and assistance in finding housing.

        “We work closely with county courts and social service agencies,” Mrs. Hoffman said.

        The agency also conducts group therapy for 125 men whose problems range from alcohol and drug abuse to anger management and other kinds of problems. Mrs. Hoffman said there is counseling for women and also a therapeutic children's program which also involves their mothers.

        Education programs are also offered. “We also go into Warren County schools with a program for children and teens. They need to know how to recognize abuse and what to do about it. They need to know it is not acceptable behavior.”

        Shelter services are provided by 14 full- and part-time employees. Mrs. Hoffman said volunteers are important to the shelter, which operates on a $500,000 annual budget.

        For information about volunteering or shelter services, call 513-695-2435. If you are an abuse victim, call the rape crisis hotline, (888) 860-4084.


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