What's Next from the Safety Initiative for Women and Children?

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by Dr. Kellett Letson

Our work fighting domestic violence in Buncombe County isn't over

As a United Way board member I am very aware just how important our call to action is when it comes to making our community strong. You’ve seen the words: Give, Advocate and Volunteer – LIVE UNITED. 

I believe in all three of those strategies and work hard to incorporate them into my life. But I’ve been doing some advocacy, separate from my official role at United Way, and I want to tell you how satisfying it can be to help change fundamental approaches to long standing problems.

In my last blog I discussed how our community has recently experienced something I like to call “advocacy pay-dirt” around making our community safer for women and children, impacted by domestic violence. Check out this link to a front-page article from the Asheville Citizen-Times to learn more.  

Great start, more to do

While we are thrilled that law enforcement now has a proactive tool to protect people from their abusers, we still have more to do. Here are a few items from our “to do list”:

  • By summer, raise enough money to hire staff to organize and coordinate the Safety Initiative’s work.  
  • Compile (and publish) our innovative and ambitious “report card” that will serve as our community baseline.
  • Establish a consistent set of key messages and core values that all agencies can use.  
  • Improve information sharing among agencies. 
  • Gather client “points of view” (especially the uninsured patients) and add to service mapping.
  • Identify long-term housing solutions with community-based supports for victims.
  • Develop an awareness campaign.

And some questions we intend to continue exploring:

  • Is there a way to improve (or share) the current “case management” staffing among various agencies?
  • Is there a way to leverage volunteers to assist with some of these efforts?
  • What are we going to do about the perpetrators?
  • What can we do about the women who don’t come forward?

Why put all this effort into domestic violence? Is there even a problem?

In our country, one in four women experience violence/abuse in their lifetime and one in four children experience abuse or neglect. 

Abuse: right here at home

  • Buncombe County ranks among the top four counties with the highest rates of homicide due to domestic violence. 
  • 3,969 children in Buncombe County were involved in reports of abuse and neglect from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 (6.7% of all 
children in the county). 

  • Of reported rapes in 2008 in North Carolina:
    • 21.5% were under the age of 14, 
    • 61.7% were under the age of 30,
    • and a disproportionate number were African American. 

Abuse: a financial toll on communities

  • The estimated costs of intimate partner rape, physical assault, and stalking exceed $5.8 billion each year, nearly $4.1 billion of which is for acute care for the victims. 
  • The estimated cost of child abuse in the United States is $95 billion annually. 

Get Involved

Our VOICE, Helpmate, and The Mediation Center serve women, children, and families impacted by abuse and sexual violence. Hands On Asheville-Buncombe has provided links to their volunteer opportunities:

This is the second part of a blog entry. The first part was published on March 17.

Dr. Kellett Letson serves primarily as an Obstetrics Hospitalist for MAHEC. His areas of special interest include quality improvement in obstetrics and gynecology, labor, cesarean birth, healthcare policy, finance, administration, and graduate medical education. He serves on United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County's Board of Directors.


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