Published Date Written by Gail OberLACONIA — After a tour of the New Beginnings shelter here yesterday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen joined community members for a discussion about domestic violence and to encourage local support for the Violence Against Women Act that just passed by the U.S. Senate.
Shaheen joined state Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), state Reps. Lisa DiMartino (D- Gilford), David Huot (D-Laconia), Beth Arsenault (D-Laconia), Police Chief Chris Adams and Lt. Rich Simmons; members of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, community partners and the staff at the shelter.
"Now the pressure is in the House (of Representatives) to pass the Senate bill and make sure there are no funding interruptions," Shaheen said, noting that over a life time, one in four American women will be victims of sexual or domestic violence.
She encouraged local politicians to support the matching funds in New Hampshire House and Senate needed to secure the federal dollars should VAWA pass the U.S. House and be signed into law by President Obama.
According to New Beginnings Director Kathy Keller, her agency helped 798 individuals in Belknap County in 2012 with 11,954 services that they needed to overcome victimization. She said 105 of the 798 were male and 26 were non-white.
Keller said 87 percent of those who were helped by New Beginnings transitioned out and have not gone back to their abuser.
Keller said recent state and federal spending cuts have affected the program and cost them two full-time positions.
"Every area that generated funding is down," she said referring to the weak economy. New Beginnings is helped by two AmeriCorps and Vista volunteers.
Saying that it "feels frightening" to see the funding decrease, Keller said New Beginnings was remaining optimistic that the funds will continue to come through federal, state and local governments as well as private donations and thousands of volunteer hours that local people continue to provide to keep the program moving forward.
Statewide, the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence was able to provide shelter to 630 people but 721 were turned away for lack of space.
The police see domestic violence up close and personal. Adams said the city has about 17,000 permanent residents and his department typically responds to 300 to 500 domestic violence incidents annually.
City police have addressed domestic violence in two keys ways: by creating a Police Oriented Problem project that directs 12 members of his department — from captains to dispatchers and civilian staff — who continually address the issue and by adopting the Lethality Assessment Program.
The Lethality Assessment Program or LAP, said Adams, was developed in Baltimore, Maryland and sets out protocols for police to follow each time they respond to a domestic violence call. Its goal was to reduce the number of domestic-related homicides — something Adams said he has seen in Laconia about seven or eight times since he joined the force 19 years ago.
LAP forces an instant connection to a local advocacy group-typically New Horizons and the Child Advocacy Center to provide assistance not only to the victim but to the children who often witness domestic violence.
Shaheen said she was familiar with LAP and praised it for helping to "stop the cycle of violence." She said children who come from homes with domestic abuse are more likely than other to become victims of abuse or abusers themselves.
Shaheen closed by saying the VAWA bill passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and that all of N.H. national delegation that includes U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (District 1) and U.S. Rep. Anne Kuster (District 2) all support the VAWA.
"VAWA is a proven tool in supporting victims, social service providers and law enforcement officials, and today's meetings underscore that the House cannot pass this critical, bipartisan legislation soon enough," Shaheen said.