XENIA — Local legislators, community members and Family Violence Prevention Center leaders sat around a table May 26 to discuss the topic described as one that “no one wants to talk about.”
The Family Violence Prevention Center (FVPC) on Bellbrook Avenue in Xenia serves two primary populations: domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims. According to Debbie Matheson, FVPC Executive Director, the link between the two is significant.
“Sixty percent of the individuals that we serve in the shelter identify that they have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives,” she reported to the group gathered for the Domestic Violence Prevention Summit. “The two issues are intimately involved together.”
FVPC staff members described the summit — spurred by the Voices Against Violence campaign — as an effort to increase the understanding and seriousness of current abuse and victimization issues.
According to Jaime Lennon, FVPC Acting Director, the needs of the center continue to grow today.
The shelter usually holds 32 beds, but it is currently holding 36.
During the first quarter of 2017, 65 residents were served in the safe house and more than 70 crisis calls were answered.
In 2016, the center helped over 6,400 people, nearly half of those served through the prevention program.
Lennon also said that the FVPC is one of three shelters in the state that are in disclosed locations.
“We feel that domestic violence is a real problem and we have no reason to hide from anyone in the community and we’re not going to hide from victims,” Lennon said. “From the start it has been important to people … that it needed to be a place where people could just walk up to the gate, ring the bell and say ‘I need help’ and come in.”
State Rep. Rick Perales and State Rep. Emilia Sykes, just two of the many in attendance, added to the dialogue their perspectives from a state level. The two spoke of the joint-sponsored legislation, House Bill 94, which unanimously passed in April. The bipartisan bill establishes February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in Ohio.
“There’s a lot of talk about partisanship,” Perales said. “When something’s important, we come together.”
Sykes also sponsored House Bill 1, which aims to authorize dating violence protection orders. According to Sykes, the bill has passed in the House and is now left up to the Senate.
“We’re very helpful for some good positive feedback and will be excited to see it become law. Hopefully we’ll have a very good piece of legislation come out of the Senate very soon,” she said.
On another positive note, FVPC Board President Eileen Austria reported that the annual Denim and Diamonds fundraiser, which was held earlier this month, was highly successful.
“We are fighting for every penny all the time to do the work that we need to do,” Matheson said.
According to Matheson, funds to support the non-profit come from federal and state funds, direct donations and fundraisers.
Matheson ended the summit urging participants to simply have compassion.
“Compassion, putting ourselves in the shoes of others who are hurting is really important in the process of trying to help them,” she said.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.