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New programs aim to prevent domestic violence

Several events are taking place this week and next related to the issue of domestic violence, with some placing a new focus on the issue - prevention of violence, rather than reaction to it.

"You have awareness and prevention. People are trying to move in that direction," said Beth Satre of the Montana Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "This idea is new and revolutionary, stopping violence before it starts."

Satre and Karen Lane of the coalition were in Havre to present $30,000 to a Hill County group to start a program to prevent domestic violence in Havre. Lane is the state coordinator for a program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliance, or DELTA.

Montana State University-Northern and ReSponse, its program to address relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus, are sponsoring activities next week with a similar aim. Chancellor Alex Capdeville declared Oct. 27-31 as Relationship Violence Awareness Week. October is national Relationship Violence Awareness Month.

Activities are planned throughout the week to promote awareness of and to prevent relationship violence, said ReSponse director Margaret Meggs. Meggs is at a conference on domestic violence in Atlanta this week.

The Havre Business and Professional Women's organization is collecting old cellular phones and batteries and personal care items to donate to the District IV Human Resources Development Council's Domestic Abuse Program.

Lane and Satre presented the $30,000 to the Hill County Domestic Violence Task Force, to use in building a domestic violence prevention program.

HELP and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line executive director Robin Morris said the $30,000 will be used to hire a project administrator and pay office expenses to start programs to raise awareness and try to prevent violence. She said she will hire someone who will work half time for the project and half ime for the Boys & Girls Club.

HELP and the Boys & Girls Club will be the lead agency of the project.

Lane told members of the task force that CDC believes preventing domestic violence is an important part of creating healthier communities.

"It's truly a significant problem here, in the United States, and all over the world," she said.

Lane added that domestic violence is estimated to cost the nation $5.8 billion a year in health care and lost work productivity.

"This cost is only the tip of the iceberg," Lane said. "It causes pain and suffering in the community, long-term pain and coercion. Children watch, and they listen. They learn and suffer."

Morris cited statistics showing the depth of the problem in Hill County. In 2001, HRDC's Domestic Abuse Program helped 279 victims.

"We have a lot of need in Hill County," Morris said.

Meggs said anecdotal evidence and informal surveys show that while relationship violence is not a huge problem at MSU-Northern, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Studies show that women between 18 and 25, the traditional college age, are the most likey to experience relationship violence or sexual assault, she said.

ReSponse, created with a U.S. Department of Justice grant in 2002, hired Meggs in January 2003. It partners with HRDC to provide services, Meggs said. ReSponse primarily offers training and information and referrals to services, like HRDC's Domestic Abuse Program, she said.

DELTA made $30,000 contractual agreements with five agencies in each of the 50 states, with a required one-to-one match from each agency. The money is for a three-year program, with future funding contingent on meeting requirements for implementing the program.

Morris said the initial work of the Hill County DELTA project will include training members of the groups that make up the county task force, and setting up programs in the Boys & Girls Club, local schools and the community to teach about the effects of domestic violence. The local match for the grant will be in-kind services provided by the task force's 16 member groups and agencies.

The program at Northern includes asking men to wear white ribbons all week to show their solidarity with efforts to stop relationship violence and their commitment to stop violence against women.

ReSponse and the Student Health Service will hold an open house Monday, and training sessions with general information about domestic violence will be held Tuesday.

A Take Back the Night walk is scheduled for Wednesday from 5:15 to 7 p.m., starting at Cowan Hall and ending at the Student Union Building, with entertainment and information about domestic violence provided there.


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