OTTUMWA — Victims of domestic violence are not alone. But there have been changes to how services are delivered.
As it has for 35 years, the Ottumwa agency now called the Crisis Center and Women’s Shelter/Rural Domestic Abuse Program stands ready to assist victims. Now, instead of just Wapello County, the group helps victims in 12 counties. That's because of the regional plan that took hold a year ago this month as the state worked to save money. Despite any misgivings agency directors around Iowa had, however, the advocates have started making it work.
"It took the year to get all the changes in place. We finally have everything going in the direction we need it to go," said prevention specialist Kristy Knapp, the Ottumwa center's volunteer and fundraising coordinator. "The shelter [itself closed] and took on domestic violence services. But the sexual assault aspect of the agency moved to Oskaloosa."
That led to problems because some supporters think believed the center had disappeared. Knapp and her victim advocates fear survivors might also be under the impression that help was no longer available.
"When our onsite shelter closed, everyone thought we'd closed completely," she said. "That's not the case. We've never stopped providing services. The Crisis Center, the program, is still here to help."
The goal of "CCWS," she said, is to provide services for victims of domestic violence so that they can be safe and become self-sufficient in stable housing. The number one priority, she stressed, is safety. For example, she and the advocates try to keep women — or men, they've helped both genders — in their own community.
"If the partner has to flee, they are going to uproot the children. So we try to safeguard people in their own community. That way the child has as normal a life as possible. If it comes down to it, if that's not safe enough, then we move them out of the community," Knapp said.