Local shelter helps battered women
In the two years since the Tonganoxie shelter for battered women opened, the facility has served as a temporary home for more than 21 families.
The location of the shelter is not publicized, for obvious security reasons, said Betty Pantoja, circuit rider for the county's Alliance Against Family Violence.
There are two shelters in the county, Pantoja said. The one in Leavenworth has beds for 20 residents, and the one in Tonganoxie sleeps four. The shelters also have cribs for infants.
Tonganoxie was selected as a site for a shelter because of its central location.
"We were getting quite a few calls from the Tonganoxie, Linwood and Basehor area, so we thought it would be more convenient to put a shelter down here," Pantoja said.
This way, she said, children could continue to attend their own schools and mothers who work in this area or in Lawrence could continue working.
"It's hard enough for them to uproot their families," Pantoja said.
The shelter provides food and lodging, and other amenities such as a washer and dryer. Families are allowed to stay there for up to three months, Pantoja said.
"They can stay there that long if they're working on their goals and doing something to better life for themselves and their family," Pantoja said. "We've had them stay longer if there's a strict safety issue."
It's not just women who use the shelters, she said.
"It's very rare, but we do shelter men, too," Pantoja said. "They don't like to report it because they think men aren't supposed to be battered by women."
Certain times of the year are busier than other times at the shelters, she said.
"Holidays are the worst times, from now up through the first of the year," Pantoja said.
Financial problems often surface in holiday shopping, and, she said, celebrations where drugs and alcohol are involved can incite incidents of violence.
Also, she said, domestic violence tends to escalate between February and May.
"Tax season is a rough time, too," Pantoja said, "because of family arguments over how to spend tax refunds."
The shelters are funded on the county, state and national level, Pantoja said. And, she added, individuals and organizations contribute to the cause.
In addition to shelters, spouses who batter and spouses who are battered, as well as their children, are given the opportunity to participate in group counseling.
Some of those who stay at the shelters are referred through the court system, and some are referred through the center's crisis line, (800) 682-9131.
Pantoja said women frequently will use the shelter more than once. Some stays are only as long as a weekend, she said.
She said that after experiencing abuse, women's self-esteem may be so low that they don't have the confidence to believe they can make it on their own.
"Most women will leave their abuser approximately seven times before they leave for good," Pantoja said.