Editor's note:This is the 17th in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.
BY ANGIE HAFLICH
Domestic violence and sexual assault tend to be swept under the rug for a variety of reasons, according to Family Crisis Services Director Robin Shelden.
"These are under-reported crimes. Not everybody calls the police or goes to the hospital. Or lots of times, it will go on for a long time until it gets so bad, that's when they'll finally reach out for help," Shelden said.
One of the ways that the FCS, located at 106 W. Fulton St., attempts to deliver this help is by providing shelter to abused women and their children.
"We have 18 beds and we try to keep families together. People typically have their own room, but not always. If we get really, really full, we will consolidate families," Shelden said.
Shelden said that this is a critical piece of their service, since violence tends to escalate when women attempt to end an abusive relationship.
"Because they're losing control," Shelden said, referring to the abuser. "They no longer have control and that's what it's all about is control."
FCS' shelter is funded entirely by the Finney County United Way.
"Funds from them provide for our safe house, so they pay a portion of shelter staff that's over there — our full-time person. They're providing all the food, all the supplies, utilities, insurance, telephone service, that type of thing," Shelden said.
For 2013, the United Way's funding is approximately $26,000, or about 5 percent of FCS' total budget. Without this funding, Shelden said that she would have to eliminate a staff member.
"If I had to replace that, I'd have to cut a staff person and it takes people working with people," she said, adding that the safe house is something they could not do without. "You have to have some place safe to put people."
The shelter is available to women of abuse while they arrange for permanent housing elsewhere.
Shelden said that FCS reaches Finney, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearny, Wichita, Lane and Scott counties, and served 279 clients in 2011, 249 of which were in Finney County.
She said that the majority of the cases that FCS sees involve low-income families, but that domestic violence is cross-cultural.
"It crosses all cultures. It crosses all races. Historically, women have been taught to be submissive to men. The Bible talks about that. We've always been kind of second-class citizens. ... We were possessions and that thought process is still very much alive," she said, adding that 50 percent of children who grow up in abusive homes are likely to grow up to be abusers.
"For the batterers, it works. It works really well because you're getting what you want, when you want, how you want, so why would they want to give that up? Everybody's bowing down to their wishes. And typically, they have learned it from their fathers," she said.
Because victims of abuse live in fear, it often is difficult for them to see any way out of the situation, Shelden said.
"I think they need to know that there are services available. There is help out there. You don't have to do it by yourself. We're here. We're free and we're confidential. It doesn't cost you anything to come here. We'll help you as best we can," she said.
A growing problem that FCS is seeing is sexual assault cases. Shelden said that out of the 279 clients FCS served last year, 48 were sexual assault victims.
"We're seeing a lot more sexual violence, especially with children. We're all taught to beware of strangers, but most of this does not come from strangers. It comes from family and friends — people they love and people who are supposed to take care of them," she said.
Additionally, FCS offers services to teens who are either experiencing dating violence or being stalked.
"We're trying to slowly get into some preventive services, working with teenagers who may find themselves in dating violence situations. There are a lot of them, and also, kids who are raised in an abusive home don't know what a healthy relationship looks like so then they end up dating somebody who might have the same characteristics of what they're used to," she said.
The FCS office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the agency also provides a 24-hour crisis hot line, 275-5911 or (800) 275-0535.
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.
The 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign are also the same as this year.
They include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.