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The Willow increases its presence in Jefferson County

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas

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The Willow Domestic Violence Center has been serving Jefferson County residents for the past five-plus years, but until last month, when the necessary arrangements could be worked out, the empowerment-based agency hadn't had a place in this county it could rightfully call home.

That all changed in December, however, when The Willow was able to secure some space in Jefferson County for a small office where Jamie Love could fully immerse herself in the ever-so-serious work of the agency as the new advocate for Jefferson County. Love joined The Willow staff in November, filling an existing position that had opened up in October, which, by the way, is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Past advocates for Jefferson County have had to do their best to help victims and potential victims of domestic violence from a distance (i.e., Douglas County), there being no office here, but now that The Willow has secured a place for Love to work with a computer immediately in front of her, a phone just off to the side and a comfortable couch for clients to sit on as they share their sad stories, efforts to assist both those adversely affected by domestic violence and those who continue to face danger on a daily basis should be enhanced. Moreover, the new advocate lives in this county, so the trip to the office is a relatively short one compared to the trek someone would have to make if they didn't live here.

"I am a Jefferson County resident and have strong feelings about trying to spread the word about The Willow in this county and to help those who are suffering from abuse," Love said last Thursday morning during an interview in her office. "We need to educate the public, work with law enforcement and local churches and businesses, and do whatever it takes to make it known that there is help available in the communities of Jefferson County."

If nothing else, the attention the behavior displayed on video by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has received from the media in recent months has made domestic violence a recurring topic of conversation in more and more American homes. According to a report prepared by the Justice Department, each year an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of a physical assault carried out by an intimate partner, but less than half of these incidents are reported to law enforcement personnel.

Domestic violence is not gender-specific, however. Statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control show that one in three women and one in seven men will be abused by their partner at some point during their lifetime.

So is domestic violence really that big of a problem in Jefferson County? Well, here are some numbers I came up with in putting together this story, and after you've had a chance to look at them and ponder what they may, or may not mean, you're certainly free to draw your own conclusions.

In looking through the 2014 issues of the paper, I counted under the "Cases filed" heading 28 cases where someone was seeking protection from abuse and 17 cases where someone had been charged with domestic battery. In addition to these, there were 19 cases where someone was seeking protection from stalking and seven cases where someone had been charged with violating a protective order.

At any rate, Love, who volunteered at a sexual assault center while she was living in Wichita and had been a Willow volunteer for four years when she became one of its employees, stands ready to assist Jefferson County residents who are being mistreated in some way by an intimate partner or feel threatened by one. "As the Jefferson County advocate," she said, "I am available to help those who might have concerns or fears about a relationship they are in, provide education about domestic violence to residents of the county, go to court with survivors who have filed Protection from Abuse and Protection from Stalking petitions, and help find resources to help a survivor."

But Love indicated that she, too, could use some help, specifically in the area of community outreach, and invites those so inclined to become active in the work of the Jefferson County Outreach Committee. The group includes Becca Burns, The Willow's Director of Volunteer Services, and meets the second Thursday of the month, usually at the Oskaloosa Public Library. Meetings begin at 5 p.m.

The Willow, which was established in 1976, serves a three-county area, Jefferson, Douglas and Franklin counties, and operates a shelter home in Lawrence. The facility houses more than 200 adults and children in a typical year.

The agency maintains a 24-hour hotline for the benefit of tri-county residents who need someone to talk to in an emergency. There are two numbers that can be called, 785-843-3333 and 800-770-3030.

In Jefferson County, those in the midst of a crisis can reach Love by calling 785-330-3595. She also can be contacted by way of her email address, jlove@willowdvcenter.org.

More information about The Willow, which is responsible for the first safe shelter in Kansas, can be obtained by visiting the agency's website, www.willowdvcenter.org.



Copyright 2015 The Oskaloosa Independent, Oskaloosa, Kansas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 15, 2015



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