COLUMBIA — The Missouri Foundation for Health has awarded a $150,000 grant to The Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for its Sexual Assault Prevention and Education outreach program. The program helps high-risk victims of and “promotes attitudinal change about sexual assault,” according to its Web site.
“So many people don’t understand the complex issues involved in domestic violence or sexual assault,” said Jennifer Graves, fiscal manager at The Shelter. “They don’t understand how ‘normal’ people could become either a victim or perpetrator of these crimes.”
According to the Missouri Foundation for Health’sWeb site, its mission is to “empower the people of the communities we serve to achieve equal access to quality health services that promote prevention and encourage healthy behaviors.”
Bev Pfeifer-Harms, spokeswoman for the foundation, said the organization is relatively young and recently started to direct funding toward issues that are prevalent across the state.
As more groups began to apply for funding, “women’s health was one of the issues that came up,” she said. “Hopefully, we will make dents in that issue.”
Last year in Missouri, there were 35 domestic violence-related homicides, 1,500 rape offenses and 563 rape arrests, according to statistics on the Missouri State Highway Patrol Web site. In 2006, the number of rape offenses was 1,753, with 749 rape arrests. The number of domestic violence-related homicides in 2006 was not available.
The Shelter’s outreach program attempts to correct misconceptions about sexual assault.
“(The program) will provide some real-world scenarios when speaking to teens and young adults. Our culture sometimes says it’s OK to remain a bystander if your buddy humiliates his girlfriend in public or your college friends get a girl drunk to ‘take advantage of her,’” Graves said. “(The program) will help young people gain a wider perspective and work to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
Along with continuing education for MU athletes, the grant will enable The Shelter to provide educational programs for Columbia Public Schools, churches, civic organizations and other groups to raise awareness and teach prevention.
“The program targets young adults and teens because these are the people in 10 or 15 years who will be defining the social norm and what people will tolerate and not tolerate,” Graves said.
The Shelter offers hospital, court and rape victim advocacy programs, as well as batterer and crisis intervention and transitional living programs, according to its Web site. It also provides educational opportunities for parents and children and operates an emergency shelter, as well as local and statewide hot lines. The Shelter is part of Columbia’s Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit, which includes the Columbia Police Department, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Boone County prosecuting attorney’s office.
The Shelter’s budget this year is $809,022, compared with $819,363 last year, Graves said.