By CALEB SLINKARD
Between January and September of this year, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office received approximately 9,000 calls relating to domestic violence, and on average there are more than 800 reported incidents of family and domestic violence in the county. Officials believe that only one-fourth of all incidents are actually reported to law enforcement.
Women in Need’s Community Education Coordinator Michelle Lee and Executive Director Roger Robertson are working to reduce the number of domestic violence cases in Hunt County through education and interventions. The Women In Need shelter in Greenville can also house dozens of women and children while providing a safe environment and resources for victims to overcome their situations.
WIN served 202 individuals at the shelter and provided non-residential services to more than 1,000 people in 2012. Individuals who are approved to live at the shelter are enrolled in a self-help program, according to Lee, that typically takes 30 days.
“Each client is different,” she said. “Some may just need a protective order, and we help them with that, and some may need a place to stay. We walk beside them to help them get the resources they need to get to a non-violent environment.”
Both men and women have participated in the program. At the facility, safety is a top priority with electric door locks and 24/7 video surveillance.
“Safety is naturally our number one concern,” Robertson said. “We take every measure to ensure a safe environment.”
WIN meets local needs through several different methods, including a hotline (903-454-HELP), crisis intervention, job training, advocacy and peer groups. Education is also a major part of WIN’s services, according to Robertson.
“We go over forms of abuse so that individuals can identify the kind of abuse they encounter,” he said. “One of the common forms is minimization, blame and denial, where the perpetrator systematically minimizes the victim, blames the victim for the abuse and then denies that the abuse even occurred.”
Lee promotes domestic violence awareness and education through her PAVE (Preventing Abuse and Violence through Education) program that she presents on Greenville ISD campuses.
The 20 week course focuses on bullying, sexual harassment, dating violence and healthy relationships. Lee also educates county residents through speaking engagements.
WIN held a Day of Unity on Oct. 7 that was well-attended by Hunt County officials. The theme was “A Time to H.E.A.L. (Help End Abuse Locally).”
“We have great cooperation [from officials] throughout the county,” Robertson said.
“It benefits our clients that much more when we have that kind of relationship with the community,” Lee added.
WIN generates the majority of its funding locally through donations, and is also supported by the My Sister’s Closet resale shops in Commerce, Greenville and Quinlan. The shops not only raise money, but are also used by the shelter to donate clothing to individuals in need.
The process, which is accomplished through a voucher system, gives survivors of domestic violence to shop in a dignified way, according to Lee. WIN also accepts financial contributions and donations common household supplies.
“Think about it this way: anything you need in your house, we need,” Lee said.
The organization receives funding from the county, United Way and other local organizations, as well as through state and federal grants.
Individuals and organizations who are interested in giving to WIN can contact them at 903-455-4612.