CALL TO ACTION: DoVES Seeking Donations to Help Victims of Domestic Violence
Article written by: Mary Winder
First Published in the Kansas Chief
DoVES Helps Victims of Domestic Violence
Local residents may think that domestic violence and sexual assault are problems for folks in other places, surely not here in Doniphan County. The fact is that domestic violence and sexual assault do take place in our midst and in our county. DoVES in Atchison, Kan. is a place where people from our area can go if they need help to escape from this abuse and assault.
DoVES, an acronym for Domestic Violence Emergency Services, provides help and support to people who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault in the counties of Doniphan, Atchison, Brown, and Nemaha. This organization has provided service to 800 people so far this year.
(Pictured Right: Debbie Pennell Duncan, executive director of DoVES, displays an educational poster she uses when working with victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Photo by Ginger Winder.)
The mission statement of DoVES reads:
“Doves, Inc. believes that all people have the right to live without violence or the fear of violence. To preserve that right, our mission is to provide immediate safety and shelter for individuals whose lives have been affected by domestic violence and sexual assault; to empower victims to become survivors, regaining control of their lives and realizing their individual potential which violence has threatened to destroy.”
The executive director of DoVES is Debbie Pennell Duncan, 61, a former Doniphan County resident whose husband abused her years ago when she was a young woman. Duncan was able to find the strength to escape from her abuser then. Now, her firsthand experience with an abusive spouse has helped her in her work with those who come to DoVES for assistance.
“When I sit across the table from these women, I can honestly say, ‘I’ve been there’ and ‘I know how you feel,’” Duncan explains, “because I have been there myself. I was one of those women 45 years ago.”
Duncan, an R.N. who also has a degree in psychology, has worked as executive director of DoVES for four years and in outreach at the facility for four years before that. She was formerly the domestic violence and sexual assault specialist for the counties of Doniphan, Brown, and Nemaha. She stresses that one of the first goals of DoVES is to keep the people who come there safe.
The DoVES residents stay in a large house in a residential area of Atchison, strategically located near both the Atchison Police Dept. and Atchison County Sheriff’s Dept. Duncan notes that officers from both departments frequently patrol the area where the house is located to keep the residents safe from the violent individuals they are seeking to escape.
Those who come to the DoVES home to live are all women and children. Duncan explains that when men who have been victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault contact the facility for assistance, she picks them up, arranges for them to stay in a hotel overnight, and finds another appropriate shelter for them in a larger, nearby city.
The Atchison DoVES house has a capacity of 20 people, which can include up to 10 children. A new resident of the DoVES house is given about a two-week period of time in which to “settle in.” The DoVES staff members assist the residents by providing them with resources to help them get their lives back on a positive track. Most people spend between 30 and 90 days in the program.
“Our job is to empower them, not enable them,” says Duncan, noting that she has expectations of those who come to the DoVES house asking for help.
Duncan explains that the residents set weekly goals and attend support meetings. There is a Resource Book containing information on various topics the residents can use such as options for daycare, education, employment, housing, transportation, health, counseling, social services, basic needs, community resources, and much more. The DoVES staff works closely with other agencies to assist the residents.
DoVES offers a variety of programs for those who seek assistance. Classes in domestic violence, anger management, and parenting are available. Crisis counseling, both in individual and group settings, is also offered. Court advocacy is available for those who need it. There is also an outreach team that educates people about domestic violence and sexual assault and options for those who are victims of these.
A Recovery in Progress Services program provides counseling and resources to people who are incarcerated, and a Rapid Response Team quickly assesses and assists people who have suffered domestic violence or sexual abuse. An After Care Program assists former residents who have completed the program make a transition from the DoVES house to a healthy, independent, abuse-free life.
While living at the DoVES house, residents are asked to follow rules and help with chores. There is an 11 p.m. curfew. There are consequences if the rules are not followed.
“After three write-ups (for breaking the rules), I assist them in finding another place to go,” says Duncan.
Duncan, who is a native of Troy, notes that she and the other staff members at DoVES are able to help many, many of the residents find success through the DoVES program , but not all of the stories end that way.
“Some of the women do go back to their abusers,” says Duncan. “Especially if the woman has children, she may go back because she feels she isn’t able to take care of them by herself. People wonder why these women can’t just leave. But, it’s easier said than done sometimes.”
Sherry Dunn began DoVES in 1980 by setting up a hotline in her Atchison home. The program has been funded by the federal and state government, with each of the participating counties also contributing money toward the cost of operating the facility.
Duncan explains that a decrease in funding from the government has become a challenging issue for DoVES.
“The state and federal funding we receive has been cut drastically in recent years, and it was especially bad this year,” she says, noting that the counties served by DoVES continue to be very giving. “Our mission now is to keep the shelter open. This is the only shelter of this type in northeast Kansas.”
Doniphan County Attorney Charles Baskins is a firm believer in DoVES.
“I think the DoVES program provides a valuable resource to vulnerable citizens of our county,” he writes in a recent e-mail. “The support and shelter provided is a great safe harbor for victims of domestic violence. When I have a victim of domestic violence in court, I refer them to the program to try and meet any need that they may have to improve their situation.”
“I recommend the county commissioners fund the program every year when the budget is being discussed,” he adds. “…the program provides a valuable service to those who often times need assistance the most.”
It is clear, also, that Duncan believes in DoVES and its importance to the citizens of our area.
“My goal is to uplift and empower people,” she says. “It is a never-ending job and I take it very seriously. I am very passionate about my work. I love what I do! I absolutely do! I breathe it and I live for it!”
Duncan stresses that donations of money and items have always been important to the DoVES program, but these are even more vital in view of the funding shortages the facility is facing.
DoVES needs donations of the types of items any household would use such as: personal care supplies, bedding, diapers, clothes, shoes, food of any kind, cleaning supplies, school supplies, office supplies, etc. Monetary donations are always needed and appreciated, as well.
Anyone who would like to donate items or funds to the DoVES program may drop these off in Troy at the office of Adrienne Korson, economic development director for Doniphan County, on the lower floor of the county courthouse on the north side. A complete list of donation needs may be found on the Doniphan County website, www.dpcountyks.com.