February 24, 2011

EDITORIAL: Valued aid for abuse victims

In a one-day count, more than 4,700 people in New York state received help from local domestic-violence organizations. And that doesn't come close to the number who are actually being abused. Fortunately, we have dedicated and capable people in the North Country ready to help.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted the survey, with results reported by the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It showed that on Sept. 15, 2010, 4,709 victims statewide were helped by local agencies, which also answered 1,489 emergency hotline calls.

Abuse is a problem that never seems to go away. And no one around here knows that better than Susan Kelly, who has been director of Stop Domestic Violence for 30 years.

Last year, she and her staff handled 2,802 hotline calls and helped 451 victims in Clinton and Essex counties, including 24 women and 19 children who sought shelter in the agency's two safe houses.

Business, sadly, has been steady through the decades. Kelly remembers that when Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995, there were predictions that Stop Domestic Violence wouldn't have enough people needing services. That's because one-third of their calls came from Air Force families, mostly because they felt more free to seek services, since they weren't living in their home communities — fear of people finding out what is happening inhibits many victims.

"But we filled up the gap," Kelly said. "The numbers didn't go down that far, and they went back up" over the years.

Besides direct help for victims, the agency educates thousands through programs offered for schools, clubs, churches, clergy and others. Those sessions lead to more reporting of abuse and better response from the people in whom victims confide.

In Franklin County, domestic-violence services are provided by Comlinks, always admirably. But that agency is now in turmoil because of criminal accusations against its director, and services are being transferred to Stop Domestic Violence, starting March 1.

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