When Citizens Against Spouse Abuse (CASA) closed its doors this past June, Georgetown County was left without a safe house for victims of domestic violence.
Victims who need a safe place to go have since been placed in safe houses located in other counties, including Charleston, Florence and Orangeburg, causing victims to be uprooted from jobs and familiar surroundings.
Fortunately the Family Justice Center is now working to open a local safe house to serve people escaping abuse.
That group, whose mission is to coordinate with agencies to provide assistance to domestic violence victims, is asking the public to help by contributing funds for the project.
They also need volunteers for childcare and other duties related to the Family Justice Center and the safe house.
“We need to have a locally-based safe house here in Georgetown County,” said Alicia Barnes, chair of the Family Justice Center.
“It would allow us to offer a complete continuum of services to victims of domestic violence and their families.”
Vicki Bourus, co-director of the Family Justice Center, agreed and said they hope to open the safe house in February or March.
“Having this particular shelter managed locally by the Family Justice Center is a real advantage for domestic violence victims,” Bourus said.
“With a shelter here, they wouldn’t have to travel, they could keep their children in school, and keep their jobs.”
She added that a disturbing statistic is that a victim’s chances of being killed increase 75 times when she leaves her abuser.
“That is when the offender is most threatened by the partner leaving,” Bourus said. “Most domestic violence is about ownership, not partnership.”
Bourus said when the Family Justice Center took on this project the board of directors knew it would be a stretch financially, but it is “the right thing to do.”
The Family Justice Center was recently awarded a $25,000 grant for the safe house project, but Bourus said this is only a fraction of the funding needed to operate it.
“Our budgetary shortfall is at about $50,000 and we are absolutely convinced that social or civic clubs will step up and help with a donation,” Bourus said.
“Help from the community is so critical. This is a very generous community, which we have already seen since we opened in 2007.”
The Family Justice Center is also actively seeking grant sources for ongoing expenses of the safe house now being renovated by the Georgetown Housing Authority.
To make a donation or to volunteer, call Family Justice Center co-director Beverly Kennedy at 546-3926.
For more information about the Family Justice Center, visit fjcgeorgetown.org.
By Clayton Stairs
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