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GUEST COMMENTARY: True North provides care, resources for domestic abuse survivors

Monday, April 30, 2012 | 9:29 a.m. CDT; updated 1:43 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 30, 2012

Sadly, Cassidy Richardson's story is true for too many young women. We have made many strides in educating the public, increasing awareness of available victim services — including those provided by True North, for example — and influencing the behaviors of our youth so they learn to resolve conflicts without violence and form healthier partnerships as adults. But domestic and sexual violence remain underreported crimes, and there remains a stigma attached to being a victim of domestic and sexual abuse in our society. 

True North is a place of immediate safety for women and their children. Their stay may be for one day or for several weeks, even months depending on their need. Our first priority when a woman comes to us for shelter is safety. True North staff members spend time with her to get her settled into her room, to feed her children if they are hungry and to show her around the shelter so she is familiar with her surroundings. Our staff will also gather personal items that we keep on hand for her use. All too often, these are items she has not had time to gather herself (shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.). 

Crisis intervention resources

Here are some of the crisis intervention resources available in mid-Missouri. Find additional resources through the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Mid-Missouri Crisis Line

573-445-5035

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; housing issues assistance; law enforcement advocacy; legal representation; MO HealthNet assistance; Safe at Home application assistance.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Provides 24-hour support for survivors of sexual and relationship violence. Hotline workers can assist with safety planning, crisis intervention, and referrals for all 50 states.

Safe Passage Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Services

Hotline: 800-616-3754

Hotline: 660-269-8111

Office: 660-269-8999

Spassage@sbcglobal.net

P.O. Box 456

Moberly, MO 65270

Shelter and motel placement; domestic violence and sexual assault crisis intervention; case management; court advocacy; support groups for women and children; professional therapy for women and children; structured program for children; non-residential services.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney — Victim Response Team

573-886-4100

705 E. Walnut Street

Columbia, MO 65201

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; law enforcement advocacy.

Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corp.

573-442-0116

800-568-4931

205 E. Forest Ave.

Columbia, MO 65203

www.lsmo.org

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; housing issues assistance; law enforcement advocacy; legal representation; MO HealthNet assistance; Safe at Home application assistance.

The L.E.A.D. Institute

888-761-4357 (hotline)

573-445-5005

2502 W. Ash

Columbia, MO 65203

www.deaflead.org

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; hospital/medical advocacy; law enforcement advocacy; primary prevention; professional therapy for individual children; professional therapy for individual male survivors; professional therapy for individual women.

University of Missouri RSVP (Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention) Center

573-882-6638

MU Student Center

G210

Columbia, MO 65211

www.RSVP.missouri.edu

RSVP@missouri.edu

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; law enforcement advocacy; primary prevention; Safe at Home application assistance.

True North

875-1370 (hotline and shelter)

800-548-2480 (toll-free hotline)

800-380-3323 (hotline for the hearing-impaired)

875-0503 (office)

www.truenorthofcolumbia.org/

Court/legal advocacy; crisis intervention; hospital/medical advocacy; law enforcement advocacy; life skills classes; motel placement; parenting classes; primary prevention; professional therapy for individual male survivors; professional therapy for individual women; Safe at Home application assistance; shelter; structured program for children; support groups for children; support groups for women; transitional housing.


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Our shelter case managers will then work with her to process what choices she wants to make for her future. If she decides to leave the abusive environment permanently, we will help her write a resume if she needs a job and find daycare for her children.  She might need medical care, so we will provide referrals within the medical community. If she needs housing, we maintain lists of affordable properties and work with landlords to help our clients through this process. We maintain a variety of referral lists and provide emotional support and encouragement as they step out of their current "world" and begin the process of creating a new life free from the abuse.

Beyond the safety of our shelter, we also provide our clients — both the in shelter and those receiving non-residential services — with counseling and support groups. We have one full-time counselor and one to two counseling interns from MU who provide short-term crisis counseling for up to 6 months. We also have a volunteer counselor who provides very focused and specialized counseling for some of our clients who might need this type of service.

True North is part of Boone County's Coordinated Community Response team, the Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit. Our DOVE coordinator works closely with the Columbia Police Department, the Boone County Sherriff's Department and the prosecuting attorney's office to provide court advocacy, crisis management, safety planning and a variety of other services to victims of domestic violence. A part of this program is our First Responder Advocate.  When she is on duty from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. four nights a week, she responds to requests from the police department to go on the scene of a domestic violence situation that just occurred. This immediate response is critical for victims, providing on-site emotional support, advocacy and information.

True North also has an educational outreach program and works collaboratively with the Columbia Public School System, MU and other surrounding colleges to provide preventive education, safe intervention techniques and social-norming strategies that work to redirect unhealthy behaviors among our youth. We recently joined with Columbia Parks and Recreation to provide outreach prevention education for at-risk youth, as well. This program, which meets once a week at the Armory, is free and focuses on teens and young males.

We have a variety of volunteer opportunities at the agency. Victim service opportunities include hospital advocacy, hotline response, court advocacy and child care support. Because these are direct victim service activities, volunteers must receive a minimum of 48 hours of training provided by True North prior to providing services. Other volunteer opportunities include maintenance and administrative projects, fundraising activities, tabling events, and food and paper good drives. Anyone interested in volunteering at True North can check our website or call us at 875-0503. 

Civic groups, church groups and MU's Greek community provide volunteers for work days to do a variety of tasks for our agency. This month, the Greek community provided more than 40 volunteers who spent three hours on two different days completing projects for the agency.

Additionally, groups hold drives for us and collect items we routinely use. These types of activities save us thousands of dollars and provide many man-hours of work we could not otherwise afford. The Professional Leaders Auxiliary (part of The Assistance League of Mid-Missouri) provides thousands of dollars in services to True North each year and, through Upscale Resale, provides clothing vouchers to True North clients in need.

All the services True North provides are free to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Together, working with everyone in our community, we can create a safer community. Our goal is to make sure young girls growing up in Columbia and Boone County do not experience what Cassidy did as a child and young adult. I commend Cassidy for coming forward and sharing her story.

Barbara Ellen Hodges is the executive director of True North.


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