Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hubler: Fighting Domestic Abuse A 'Family Values' Issue

Western Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Rob Hubler says domestic abuse services in this part of the state have been depleted more than in other sections of the Hawkeye State.

Hubler, a retired Presbyterian minister from Council Bluffs, is framing this as a "family values" issue in his race against U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron.

"In my first pastorate, twenty years ago, I anticipated I would be marrying, counseling, burying, and generally guiding the flock in the church," Hubler said. "I knew even in 1988 that the rural economy is always a challenge to those that live there. I knew that life always presents problems that test daily living. What I never expected was the frequency that I encountered relationships involving physical and mental abuse situations. Neither did I realize the profound effect abuse has not just the individuals involved, but on the communities where they live. It soon became clear that this was a secret that most families were unwilling to talk about and that most communities were not prepared to address."

According to Hubler, since 2002, the number of domestic and sexual violence facilities in Iowa has fallen from 34 to 27. In the Fifth Congressional District, the number of outreach centers has gone from 11 to 7 in that time frame, Hubler said.

Both federal and state funding for programs providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have been diminished in recent years, said Joyce DeHaan, executive director of the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center (D/SAOC) in Fort Dodge.

"Federal funds have been diminishing since 2000 although many valiant efforts have been made to offset the losses," DeHaan said. "As a result, a number of programs across the state have been forced to close or merge with neighboring programs. Our own agency, the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center was asked to add Carroll and Crawford counties to our service area, as the former program was no longer able to sustain services."

Initially, D/SAOC was promised sufficient funds to operate the shelter in Carroll as well as provide advocates in both counties.

"However, because of the cut in federal funds, we did not receive sufficient funding so we have not been able to keep the shelter open 24/7, but rather provide counseling and advocacy services out of the Carroll shelter as well as from donated space in Denison," DeHaan said. "This means that victims and children seeking shelter from the Carroll/Crawford area must come to Fort Dodge for shelter, making it very difficult for the family needing safety."

This story cross-posted at Iowa Independent.com.

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