Shreveport-Bossier Needs a Domestic Violence Program
Alan English with The Shreveport Times asked me to write an Op-Ed on domestic violence. I was honored to get the request and share the piece with you.
You might not be a victim of domestic violence, but I bet you know someone who is living this nightmare. Domestic violence is a life or death situation for many victims. We only have to look at the case of Gwen Cox Salley, the Grand Cane woman who was murdered by her estranged husband, Michael Salley.
Gwen Salley leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter who now has no mom or dad. This child will forever have questions about why her daddy did what he did.
Gwen is representative of many domestic violence victims. She suffered. Only a few people probably know how much she suffered. Gwen did what she had to do to get out of a violent situation. She called police. she filed for divorce and a protective order. She changed the locks at her home. She did the best she could to protect her daughter.
It is time for Shreveport-Bossier City residents to realize how important it is for a community to have adequate and appropriate services for victims of domestic violence. Services are best done by an experienced, local group that can build networks of coordinated services. This network must include law enforcement, the legal community, and social service agencies.
Domestic violence cuts across all demographics and economic levels. One in three women have experienced physical violence which might also include rape, at the hands of a partner. Think about that number. One in three women you come across today could be dealing with an abusive relationship. How do we stop this cycle of abuse?
The key is to have resources available in a community where a victim can go to get help. This help might be immediate shelter, counseling, legal assistance or other supportive services. We have to step up and make sure these services are available in our community. But it is an expensive process. A domestic violence shelter has special requirements to make sure the residents are safe and secure. That costs money.
Now that Providence House will close its safe house at the end of June, our community must come up with an answer. Local groups are working together to put a program in place, but these activists will need help. It's time for lawyers, judges, police officers, social workers and city leaders to join hands an offer support.
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover told me that having a safe house in our community is as important has having a police or fire department. I could not agree more. But private funding sources are dwindling and this is where government can step in to help. The Department of Children and Family Services is accepting grant applications for funding a program in our area. I can only hope that it will be enough and the agencies involved in putting this together can find enough leadership in our community to make sure this is a viable program that is not faced with scrambling for dollars to keep the doors open.