by Dr. Kellett Letson
Safety Initiative for Women and Children
At United Way we give, we advocate, and we volunteer. We believe that it takes all three of these actions to create lasting change. Last week our community saw an example of “advocacy pay dirt.” Check out this link to a recent front-page article from the Asheville Citizen-Times about fighting domestic violence with GPS-enabled ankle bracelets.
David Bailey, president of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, and I have been very involved from the beginning and, while the Safety Initiative is not an official advocacy effort of United Way, we are proud to represent both efforts. We also extend a big thank you to Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones who has been part of our Safety Initiative since it began; her efforts to advocate for these incredible programs has been instrumental.
Some Background on the Safety Initiative
In July of 2012 a group of key, influential stakeholders convened to make Asheville and Buncombe County “the safest place on the planet for women and children.” This was a focused discussion about domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse. This group included elected officials, law enforcement officers, executive directors of non-profits serving survivors, representatives from both local school systems, health care leaders and providers, key DSS personnel, legal professionals, community volunteers, students, and others.
Our Objective: To make Asheville and Buncombe County the safest place on the planet for women and children to live by…
- Reducing rates of violence/abuse against women and children in order to promote health of families in the region.
- Decreasing the number of homicides of women and children as a result of sexual/domestic violence.
- Improving the ease of reporting by victims of abuse and sexual violence.
- Maintaining a community plan that works to continue the culture of intolerance for violence/abuse and promote positive relationships for family health.
- Improving the outcomes for women, children, and families.
As described in the recent Asheville Citizen-Times article, our community is poised to use a high-risk assessment tool that has been shown to virtually eliminate lethal acts of domestic violence. Utilizing existing GPS tracking devices with domestic violence offenders has been shown to greatly improve the safety of the victim and is a pro-active approach to a problem that often lacks such tools.
This partnership between county and city leaders, law enforcement, and the district attorney’s office shows incredible collaboration and is a result of this group’s efforts. KUDOS to all 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:
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.