Gainesville Daily Register

July 9, 2012

Publisher's Pen 7-8

A safe haven is needed

By JIM PERRY, Publisher
Gainesville Daily Register

— Last month Gainesville was decked out in deep purple. Not the classic rock band, mind you, but purple banners, ribbons and bows. There was purple everywhere.

The purple effect, as we called it in the newsroom was created by a group known as the “We Care Team.” This group decked the town in purple because it is the color of “bruise.” June was officially dubbed Domestic Violence Awareness month in Cooke County and organizers began raising awareness and funding for the Abigail’s Arms Family Crisis Shelter Project.

The project’s beginnings date back to 1981 when Cooke County Friends of the Family was formed to establish a crisis hotline to help victims of violent crimes. The first crisis line was activated in 1983 and a second line was later added. Today, Abigail’s Arms still maintains the crisis hotline twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in order to provide help when it is needed most. The agency provides free, confidential services to residents of Cooke County and also receives referrals from Montague County. The primary types of victimization that the agency deals with include, but are not limited to sexual assault, family violence and aggravated assault. You may want to make a note of the crisis hotline number or give it to someone you know: (940) 665-2873.

Victims of domestic abuse still do not have access to a permanent shelter in Cooke County. Volunteers at Abigail’s Arms must seek assistance for victims through the Denton County or Grayson County crisis centers or through local, temporary motel shelter. Occupancy at existing shelters has reached an all-time high with less and less reserve space availability. The need for a Cooke County shelter has never been greater.

Construction has begun on the Abigail’s Arms – Cooke County Family Crisis Center and the foundation should be poured within the next week. Generous donations have made this project possible. Enough has been raised to complete phase one of the construction but much more is still needed. An estimated half million dollars will be required for the structure. From there the furnishings, fixtures and operational considerations need to be accounted for. Once open and staffed, the facility must be in operation for 12 months to be eligible for grants and entitlements.

The completed shelter will have ten bedrooms and a client services wing where full-time staff will provide counseling, case management, therapy, battering intervention and life skills programs. Security will exist so a family at the shelter will feel safe while receiving the services needed to help them rebuild their lives and go on to a strong, secure and productive future.

A permanent shelter for victims of domestic abuse in Cooke County has been a dream for more than thirty years. Countless hours have been spent working to make this dream a reality. At last, we have just begun.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read numerous testimonials from victims of domestic violence. There were also testimonials from agency volunteers and supporters. Many were published in these pages last month. The following is a true story told by a young victim of abuse right here in Cooke County:

“I am 17 years old, about to turn 18. When I was seven, I was put into foster care. The night we (me, my brother and my sister) were taken away from my parents, I remember my step-father beating my mother with a hammer. This was just one of many incidents that I remember. I always thought my mom would come back and get us, but she didn’t. You see she couldn’t read, so she thought she couldn’t survive without my step-father. She felt she couldn’t leave him and there was no where for her to go where he couldn’t find us. Even though my story has a very happy ending — we were all adopted by a loving, wonderful family — I know we are an exception to the rule. I know many foster homes are not the best place to be raised, and the best place for the children to be are with their moms. I would love to see more safe shelters for mothers where they could protect the kids and to help them see they don’t have to live like that anymore, they could make something of themselves and keep their children and lead a healthy life.”

I hope you will join with me and other local businesses leaders to support the We Care Team, the Abigail’s Arms board members, the volunteers and the numerous contributors to insure that women and children who are victims of domestic violence will finally have a safe haven.