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Forsyth County Family Haven Advocates for Victims of Domestic Violence

By S. Mathur

Forsyth County Family Haven is a nonprofit with the mission to be "an advocate for victims and families of domestic violence providing shelter, programs and community education to end the cycle of violence." Executive Director Shandra Dawkins says that domestic violence is a major problem in the country and "the problem is so severe that it affects people from all people from all walks of life. Often, I state, Domestic violence is an equal opportunity destroyer. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care what socio-economic status, ethnicity, age and religion."

National statistics reflects, that every minute 20 women are physically abused by an intimate partner. Over one year, that totals more than 10 million women and men. Dawkins says that shelters and other types of support that provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence and their dependent children are vital: "Georgia ranks 9th in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, 15 calls per minute."

Forsyth County Family Haven was incorporated in 1989 and offers services, such as, emotional support., individual and family counseling, emergency shelter, transitional housing, safe affordable housing options, financial support in the form of rental and/or utility deposits, and childcare assistance. Beyond dealing with the immediate crisis, victims need help getting back on their feet, and Family Havens helps out with scholarships for certifications, such as, CNA , CDA programs, technical schools and long-term comprehensive counseling services.

Victims of domestic violence struggle to deal with a number of interrelated problems, says Dawkins: "Families and individual victims are faced with homelessness, lack of finances, no affordable housing, childcare issues, employment, lack of transportation, lack of supportive services, their emotional well-being, as well as an array of other issues they face on a daily basis."

An essential part of the Family Haven mandate is to use community education as a way to prevent and stop domestic violence. Dawkins says that her message to others is that "Domestic violence is everyone's business! It's important that we be a voice for those who have been silenced!" Family Haven provides community education through workshops, parenting classes,; volunteer trainings, a speakers bureau and other community awareness events. The Safe Dates Project is a teen project that discusses healthy relationships in Forsyth County schools and aftercare programs.

Community support is essential for the success of the work at Family Haven. Dawkins says that "The community shows their support by participating in our community events, financial support, as well as, in-kind services, such as volunteer hours and/or tangible items for our emergency shelter and transitional housing programs." Volunteers can work on various projects such as fundraising, childcare, crisis line, and the thrift store. They can also serve as life skills facilitators. Volunteers undergo training for whichever program they choose, and may also need to undergo a background check for certain positions.

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