Silke Deeley, executive director of Liberty House in Albany, says the organization, which operates a crisis center, responded to more than 1,000 crisis events in 2012. (Jan. 17, 2013)
ALBANY -- For those area women, children and even men who find themselves in an abusive domestic situation, there's a place to go for help.
Silke Deeley, the executive director of Liberty House, a shelter and advocacy program in Dougherty County, recently told members of the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club that the organization receives upwards of 1,000 yearly crisis calls within its 17-county service area, with reports of violence having increased throughout the recent and ongoing economic downturn.
"In this community, things have gotten a whole lot worse," Deeley said. "I believe a lot of it has to do with the increased pressure and probably substance abuse."
Liberty House outreach programs are designed to ensure the safety of abuse victims and to assist them in breaking the cycle of violence, Deeley said. In addition, victims receive support even as they begin to rebuild their lives within the community. Advocacy includes provision of accurate information about safety planning, emergency shelter, legal options and resources.
"It takes 7-9 times for a woman to truly leave her situation," Deeley said. "When children are abused, many times that is the catalyst. Often the question is asked: 'Why do they stay?' The question we need to be asking is 'Why is she the one we're questioning when we should be holding the batterer accountable?'"
In many cases of service to abuse victims, shelter is provided. For reasons of safety, the precise location of the Dougherty County shelter is not revealed. According to Deeley, the shelter offers six bedrooms with occupancy of up to 21 women and children. About 250 abused individuals were sheltered last year, Deeley said.
Abuse victims are not always women or children. According to Deeley, 25 men were served by Liberty House last year. Though shelter is not provided, men may receive legal or financial assistance as needed to help them leave or relocate. For both men and women, about $75,000 is spent on relocation services each year, all for concern of safety, Deeley said.
Services, however, do not stop with shelter or general advocacy. Deeley said area law enforcement and judicial systems are continuously urged to administer justice to perpetrators of violence or abuse.
"My two advocates are like pit bulls," Deeley said. "If someone in a community isn't doing their job, we work diligently until we make sure those people uphold the law and assist the victims."
Deeley said volunteers are always needed at Liberty House, for anything from general maintenance to food preparation. However, all applicants must receive at least 20 hours of education and training in domestic violence.