Shelter hopes to bring attention to violence

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; Domestic violence isn&8217;t going away.

But it is becoming a more accepted problem, allowing more of the abused to get help.

The Guardian Shelter served about 130 women last year and 145 children, Director Sue Ann Brown said.

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Those women and their families got help. They got temporary housing, assistance finding jobs and permanent housing and the needed counseling.

But there are more out there who need help, Brown said.

That&8217;s why the Guardian Shelter is trying to get the word out during October &8212; Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

&8220;People are recognizing it more,&8221; Brown said. &8220;The stigma that used to go along with it is not as pronounced as it used to be. We serve people from all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all races and religions.&8221;

The shelter services 11 counties and has residents from as far away as Georgia. Women and children are only allowed to stay at the Guardian Shelter for 30 days, but while they are there workers help find stable housing.

&8220;People in the community are very helpful,&8221; Brown said. &8220;They are very open to hiring the women from the shelter.&8221;

Brown said the shelter now gets women from prominent families, who in past years would&8217;ve been ashamed to come for help.

Some women, though, still try to hide the abuse, she said.

&8220;They may be very defensive of that person,&8221; she said. &8220;They may feel like they still love this person and may be embarrassed, so they want to hide it.&8221;

Warning signs include obvious bruises (though most are hidden), a husband who behaves in a very jealous manner, limits the money his wife has access to and even keeps track of how much she travels.

Women may become isolated from their family and friends.

When a woman comes to the Guardian Shelter, officials encourage her to press charges to prevent future abuse. Brown advised anyone who thinks they are close to an abusive situation to first call the police.

&8220;The first issue is their safety,&8221; she said. &8220;We want to make sure the person cannot hurt them or someone else.

&8220;We strongly encourage them to come to us immediately. Get what they can, but leave the rest. We can apply for new birth certificates and Social Security cards.&8221;

The shelter is also always in need of community support in the form of household donations. Brown said they always need pots, pans, clothing, furniture, any items used to set up a house.

Donations can be made by contacting the shelter at 601-442-0142.

This month the shelter is selling awareness magnets and handing out brochures and posters to promote knowledge of the problem.