NEW MADRID -- In an effort to provide assistance for domestic violence victims, the New Madrid County Family Resource Center, with the help of other county agencies, has created Domestic Violence Assistance Program, or DVAP.
"We found that in New Madrid County there were no formal information centers set up to help domestic violence victims," said Michelle Terrell, executive director of the New Madrid County Family Resource Center. "We have shelters, but not assistance programs."
In June, DVAP was created by the Family Resource Center to address the need for more assistance for domestic violence victims in New Madrid County and is available to all domestic violence victims, Terrell said.
Twenty-four hours after a police call is made, the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department's DARE officer, Susan Wheeler, will make a visit with a victim by referral, Terrell said. Then Sheila Hill, community outreach worker of the Center for Family Resources, will be available on Fridays from 9-11 a.m. at the New Madrid County Family Resource Center, she explained. Both will provide victims with support, guidance, information and/or counseling.
"It's just really taken off," Terrell said. "One of our ultimate goals is to develop a tracking system so we can have more statistics on domestic violence in the area."
Terrell noted that last year, only 55 domestic violence cases were filed in New Madrid County. New Madrid County domestic violence victims weren't filing ex parte orders she said noting statistics show only one out of five domestic violence victims will file an ex parte. Using this national rate, there could be approximately 275 total victims of domestic violence in New Madrid County, Terrell added.
Currently about half of Missouri's counties do not offer services aimed at preventing domestic violence or aiding victims of domestic abuse, Gov. Bob Holden said recently in releasing findings of a task force made up of state officials and representatives of groups that deal with domestic violence issues.
When speaking in suburban St. Louis last week, Holden said every state agency will be asked to take on a greater role in educating the public and preventing domestic abuse. Holden said that his fiscal year 2002-2003 budget dedicates $4.2 million for combating domestic violence, an increase of $500,000 over the previous year.
Terrell said grants have enabled DVAP to purchase brochures about the program and other literature to get the word out. "Domestic violence is one area we don't tap into around here. It's here and is something we need to address," Terrell said.
Agencies working in a collaborative effort with the New Madrid County Resource Center are the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department, Division of Family Services, Bootheel Healthy Start, Center for Family Resources, Department of Corrections, Missouri Mentoring Partnership, New Madrid County Victims Advocate, New Madrid County Caring Communities and Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation.
"New Madrid County is developing a zero tolerance culture for domestic violence so offenders know, 'This is it. If I do this, this will happen.' We're gonna take action," Terrell explained.
Goals of the program include education awareness by providing communitywide training sessions and domestic violence literature, assistance to police and sheriff's departments by diverting phone calls to DVAP and a cell phone drive, which consists of public donations of cell phones or money to purchase cell phones that will be distributed to domestic violence victims.
New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens attended recent training sessions, Terrell said.
Terrell explained: "We want to keep families and children safe in the community and to do that, we need to help people feel safe in their families."
For more information, or to make a referral, call Terrell at (573) 748-2778, Wheeler at 1-800-961-1595 or Hill at 1-800-455-9229.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.