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Agency Hopes to Open New Facility for Domestic Violence Victims

Interact of Wake County is on course to open a new facility next spring that leaders hope will help victims stay out of domestic violence situations.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to return to their abuser or begin another abusive relationship within six months from first seeking help if they are unable to meet their family's basic needs.
And that's why agencies, such as Interact of Wake County, help provide assistance to meet those needs.

"Clients who are coming to us have multiple additional needs," said Kathryn Johnson, Interact of Wake's associate executive director. "There are housing needs. There's financial needs. There's often concerns about child care."

And then, there are transportation, health care, substance abuse treatment, job-skills training and employment-counseling needs, among others.

Last year, as part of its Campaign for a Safe Place, the United Way agency purchased a 55,000 square-foot facility, set to open in March 2008, at 1012 Oberlin Road in Raleigh.

Its goal is to provide victims their immediate needs, such as shelter and counseling, while also simultaneously providing in one location all the resources needed free themselves from abusive homes.

On average, a victim will attempt to leave an abuser seven times before finally doing so, Johnson said, citing a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice study. Interact's goal is to get them out and help them stay out of abusive situations.

Beverly Hartley, a counselor on Interact's 24-hour crisis line who is also a victim of domestic violence, said she sees the value in having the assistance in one place.

"It was invaluable," Hartley said. "They knew how to keep me focused on what was important at certain times."

Hartley said that while safety was her first priority, she realized as time passed she had more challenged to worry about.

"Trying to do things on my own for two small children and trying to keep my career going, as well, was difficult," she said.

For example, the YMCA of the Triangle will operate after-school and summer youth programs, mentoring and tutoring.

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle will operate Interact's commercial kitchen and provide culinary-skills training.

Legal Aid of North Carolina will offer Interact's clients legal assistance and regular legal clinics, and the Raleigh Police Department will house its 14-member Family Violence Intervention Unit at the facility.

Interact is also hoping to house substance-abuse and mental-health programs in the new facility, as well.

The initiative is a model program based on 17 other programs throughout the United States that have similar elements. But it is the only program that covers all aspects of a domestic violence victims' lives after they leave their abuser.

Interact hopes to open the facility in March 2008. It has raised $3.3 million toward the project, but is still seeking another $2.2 million to reach its goal.

Hartley said the program is long overdue.

"Our area has grown so fast. We're seeing more and more cases where women need the services, and they need it now," she said. "They can't wait."

Soon, they won't have to, she said.


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