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VIOLENCE VICTIMS SEEK HELP WOMEN'S SHELTER RELOCATION EYED.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- The Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita is hammering out a three-year strategic plan to neatly map out its growth.

The nonprofit group wants to relocate its 10-bed emergency shelter and expand its services to offer more prevention programs instead of solely reacting to crises.

``Things have changed so drastically, we thought we would have something in place that we could look at as we reach each of our goals,'' said Jorja Harris, president of the organization's board.

The 22-year-old center in Newhall offers counseling and support groups in English and Spanish, a year-round court-mandated batterer's intervention program, a 24-hour emergency hotline and an emergency food supply program.

Wednesday's strategic planning meeting was attended by the nine-member board and two executive directors. City Manager Ken Pulskamp and Tina Haddad, assistant to the city manager, volunteered their expertise.

Samantha Thomas, a co-executive director of the group, said the number of women walking through the door continues to grow. About 116 new clients joined support groups in 2005-06; the office served about 300 people altogether. The prior year, 103 new clients came in.

During that same period, 40 people -- 15 women and 25 children -- took refuge in the shelter, which can house 10 people at a time. Calls to the hotline grew to 550, up from 438 the prior year.

The location of the shelter, which generally offers a 30-day maximum stay, is confidential, and its security has never been breached. Clients are often referred to six-month to two-year transitional programs that provide housing and offer high school equivalency education and job training and teaches independent living skills.

Many who seek the center's services have already reported physical abuse to law enforcement.

Sheriff's Lt. Brenda Cambra, the board's newest member, said the group is an ``absolutely necessary part of our community.''

Sheriff's Department records show that reports of serious domestic violence injuries -- broken bones, internal injuries and injuries requiring stitches or hospitalization -- are increasing from prior years. In 2004, 22 victims made reports; in 2005, 10 reports were filed; and so far this year, 25 reports have been made.

In cases of lesser injuries or no injury, in 2004, 434 reports were made; in 2005, the number climbed to 524; and so far in 2006, 318 cases have been reported.

Domestic violence spreads its tentacles through the community, and the group plans to educate neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers and schoolmates of victims, with the intent of demystifying the problem and attracting more support, financial and otherwise.

``We talk about how domestic violence happening in the home or not still has the likelihood of touching peoples' lives,'' Thomas said. ``My son may have a friend whose mom is a victim; employers have employees where (it) is a factor in their lives.''

The violent encounters cross racial, religious and economic divides, and sometimes adult-on-adult attacks veer into physical abuse of children.

Cambra said domestic violence runs in families, as opposed to across the board in areas, so patterns may be seen. Harris said it also crosses into the same-sex community. And the behavior can escalate.

``It's certainly not a problem that's been solved.''

The group also offers crisis intervention counseling and children's therapy, teaches victims to develop safe exit plans, how to obtain temporary restraining orders and legal service referrals.

In 2004, 35 domestic violence victims reported restraining order violations; in 2005, 25 made reports; and so far in 2006, 19 reports have been made.

Gail Ortiz, the city's spokeswoman, and Kevin Tonoian, Santa Clarita's technology services manager, serve on the board.

judy.orourke(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:602
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