Forks Abuse opens for domestic violence month

By Zorina Barker, Forum Correspondent

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Forks Abuse Program opened its doors for an open house on Friday, Oct. 18.
The public was invited to come and ask questions and look around the office. The “Silent Witness display” had prior engagements and so was not available for viewing at that time contrary to the original plan.
Ann Simpson, Director of the Forks Abuse Program, sat down with the Forum to explain what the agency does.

What is the Forks
Abuse Program?

In 1979, America was beginning to draw attention to domestic violence. In Forks, five members of the community began a bare bones project to address the local needs, Simpson said.
The group relied on volunteers to begin a program that focused on providing a safe house for victims of violence.
Since, the Forks Abuse Program has grown in its scope to include domestic violence, sexual assault and crime victim advocacy programs.
Today it has a paid staff of seven women, several volunteers and a small selection of safe homes and environments.
The services offered are a simple as being a listening ear to assistance in gaining freedom - be it financial, material or legal.
As a small town in a geographically isolated area, Forks has its own set of problems, Simpson said, not the least being a distinct lack of anonymity.
This becomes sticky when you need to get away from someone in the community, she said.

What kind of help is offered at the Forks Abuse Program?
Domestic violence and sexual assault have been declared public health issues and as such, all programs are based upon standards put forth by the Center for Disease Control, Simpson said.
The Domestic Violence Program includes both shelter and advocacy programs for children, women and men.
Forks Abuse Program employees adhere to strict confidentiality regulations.
The shelter homes for clients are not communal which is somewhat rare. Each family is given their own home, complete with toiletries, food, bedding and clothing if needed.
The advocacy-based counseling assists with protection orders as well as divorce paperwork.
Employees of the program help individuals find therapy to find ways out of abusive relationships, Simpson said, usually through West End Outreach.
Children in abusive settings are very vulnerable and need to be helped to express their experiences.
“We give them words to define what has happened, to bring what they have seen out from the shadowy world and into the open. We want them to talk about it without vilifying people,” Simpson said.
Men are often victims too.
In a society where men are stereotyped to be in charge and strong, it is difficult to admit to friends and family when a partner is being abusive, Simpson said.
Thursday, Oct. 24, the public is invited to join staff members at the Hoh beachfront for the “Message in a Bottle” event at 7 p.m. Call Forks Abuse Program at 374-2273 for answers to questions.

How is it funded?

The Forks Abuse Program is primarily funded through federal and state dollars.
Private donors add to the program, usually bringing in a donation along with a personal story.
Several humanitarian organizations step forward regularly, including the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation, United Way, Haller Foundation, and the Clallam County Homeless Fund.

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