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Attorney general blames economy for increase in domestic violence
BY DION LEFLER
The Wichita Eagle
Local domestic violence resources and related links
- Kansas Attorney General Steve Six's Web site, which includes details on victim's rights and additional resources
- YWCA Wichita: Signs of an abusive relationship
- YWCA Women's Crisis Center offers shelter, advocacy and community education resources centering on domestic violence. Call 316-263-7501 or the crisis line, 316-267-SAFE (316-267-7233).
- Catholic Charities is the local coordinator of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships." Offers information, teen leadership training and drama troupe. Call Catholic Charities' Harbor House, 316-263-6000.
- The Wichita Police Department's domestic violence and sex crimes division can provide information about how to file a protection from abuse order and other law enforcement resources. Call 316-268-4407. The division also offers a list of phone numbers to call for Orders of Protection, a place to stay, legal help and more.
- Kansas Statewide Hotline is a toll-free, 24-hour statewide crisis hotline to link domestic violence and sexual assault victims to crisis programs across Kansas. Call 1-888-END ABUSE (1-888-363-2287).
- StepStone offers transitional housing and some outreach services. Call 316-265-1611.
- Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center offers education about sexual assault, information and referrals to victims of sexual assault and their supporters. Call the 24-hour crisis line, 316-263-3002, or the office line, 316-263-0185.
domestic violence hotlines
Kansas Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline: 888-END-ABUSE (888-363-2287)
YWCA 24-hour crisis line: 316-267-SAFE (316-267-7233)
Catholic Charities Harbor House: 316-263-6000
WICHITA - Attorney General Steven Six warned Thursday that the recession is fueling an increase in domestic violence.
The Wichita YWCA confirmed that, reporting a 70 percent increase in women and children seeking shelter from abuse.
Six said he's seeing an upswing in domestic violence, based on abuse complaints and meetings he's had recently with operators of shelters for battered women and other victim-assistance organizations.
"A tough economy tends to increase stress on families and unfortunately, that often leads to violence," Six said.
Six spoke Thursday to about 500 victims' rights advocates and service providers at the annual Crime Victims Rights Conference at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
Chryle Nofsinger-Wiens, executive director of the Wichita YWCA, attended the conference and confirmed that her organization is seeing the increased domestic abuse that Six cited.
"There has been a 70 percent increase in the number of women we shelter since June," Nofsinger-Wiens said.
Her organization operates a shelter that can handle about two dozen women and children fleeing abusive home situations.
"As soon as someone moves out, someone comes in," she said.
In addition to the family shelter, the YWCA also provides counseling, advocacy and support services for 600 to 700 domestic violence victims, including 100 to 125 men, she said.
Like Six, Nofsinger-Wiens said the economic downturn and the domestic violence upturn are related.
Unemployment especially worsens the problem, particularly among those men who are already prone to abusive behavior and drinking, she said.
By itself, unemployment doesn't cause abuse, Nofsinger-Wiens said.
"But it can be a tipping point, maybe going from verbal to physical," she said.
And the situation can be even worse when it's the woman who loses the job, she said.
"He's still working and she isn't," Nofsinger-Wiens said. "That gives him one more thing to literally beat her up about."
To combat the increase, Six said his office is tapping into federal stimulus money and last year started a program to solicit funding from the private sector. He said his office recently received a substantial donation from Wal-Mart.
The attorney general's office recently granted $2.25 million to domestic-violence shelter programs in Atchison, Great Bend and Manhattan, Six said.
Six's office also is projecting that 2009 will be a record-setting year for payouts from the state's Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
The state-administered fund helps crime victims get money for lost income, medical care, mental-health counseling and other expenses related to injuries from violent crime.
This fiscal year, the fund's payouts are expected to exceed $5 million for the first time, said attorney general's spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett.
Six said his office has streamlined the process for applying for compensation and worked with shelters and other service providers to make sure crime victims are aware of their rights.
Money for the fund comes from assessments against people convicted of violent crimes, Six said.
The fund allows crime victims to get compensation when they need it, rather than having to wait a year or more for court-ordered restitution money, he said.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.