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Local events boost Domestic Violence Awareness

August 28, 2010

Sharon Mortensen, Shelterhouse

Second in a monthly series on participating agencies in Continuum of Care.

A national tour of short films by, for and about women will visit Midland for an afternoon in October as part of events planned for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Shelterhouse and Matrix:Midland Cinema jointly sponsor the Lunafest presentation at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, at Midland Center for the Arts.

Lunafest’s 2010 season includes 10 films, many of them award winners. It is not yet known which of the 10 will be shown in Midland, said Sharon Mortensen, executive director of Shelterhouse and Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

The festival is one of several local events scheduled during October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Also planned during the month:

— Staff at Grace A. Dow Memorial Library will serve apple pie after family story time at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 and 10 a.m. Oct. 21.

— A day-long training session for law enforcement personnel on responding to domestic violence will be held at the Law Enforcement Center Friday, Oct. 22.

— A day-long conference, “Working to End Domestic Violence in Our Community,” will include two nationally prominent speakers: Herbert R. Tanner Jr., director of the Violence Against Women Project, and Daniel G. Saunders, co-director of the University of Michigan’s research program on Violence Across the Lifespan.

The conference, to be held at Valley Plaza’s Great Hall, begins at 8 a.m. Oct. 26. Registration fee is $30.

Wrapping up the month, the Shelterhouse annual meeting will be held the evening of Oct. 26. A highlight will be survivors of domestic violence “talking about their growth and journey,” Mortensen said. The “Survivors Speak” segment has become “a powerful piece of the annual meeting,” she said.

Last year local law enforcemet were called in regard to almost 800 domestic disputes/assaults, Mortensen said. National statistics suggest the number may represent only a fourth of actual instances, because most domestic violence isn’t reported to police, she said.

Raising community awareness is important, Mortensen believes. “As a society we haven’t taken this on as an issue” in the way that Mothers Against Drunk Driving led to a widespread change in attitudes about that problem, she said.

With a mission “to empower and educate to eliminate domestic and sexual violence,” Shelterhouse offers comprehensive services. The organization, with a staff of about 20, operates a secure emergency shelter at 3115 Isabella Street as well as counseling, advocacy, court liaison and therapy services.

Of 900 cases last year, approximately 700 were for services other than emergency shelter, Mortensen said.

Founded in 1976, Shelterhouse at first kept its locations secret, but in recent years has joined a national trend to depend on security rather than secrecy to protect its clients. “We asked ourselves, do we want to give the message that victims have to hide?” Mortensen said. “It’s the victimizers that should be hiding.”

Shelterhouse has excellent security and has encountered no problems, she said.

Mortensen, who earned a master’s degree at University of Texas/ Permian Basin, has been executive director of the organization for six years. Before that she worked for a sexual assault prevention agency in Albuquerque, N.M., and for Family and Children’s Services in Midland.

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