The advocate for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center for McPherson and Marion counties has seen a sharp increase in the number of victims she has served this year.

The advocate for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center for McPherson and Marion counties has seen a sharp increase in the number of victims she has served this year.
In 2013, 76 individuals sought services from the SA/DVC in the form of hotline calls, outreach, crisis calls, shelter services or court advocacy services.
In the first quarter of 2014, 70 clients from McPherson and Marion counties sought services from the agency. Fifty-nine of those contacts were from McPherson County residents.
A group from McPherson public and private agencies and government gathered Tuesday morning to discuss the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault and seek ways to increase awareness about the problem in the community.
Teresa Loffer, McPherson County advocate, said she thought the number of people seeking services has increased in part because of an increased awareness in the community but also due to an overall reduction of social service programs.
“I think it is people are hurting more now that more services are being cut off, truly,” she said. “They’re getting very desperate, and there are fewer places to turn for help.”
The number of individuals seeking services are likely only the tip of the iceberg, she said
Woman often choose not to report due to shame, guilt, pressure from friends or family or even law enforcement officials or attorneys who downplay incidents.
In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation recorded 144 reported instances of domestic violence in McPherson County. Ninety arrests were made as a result of those cases for a 56.9 percent arrest rate.
For rape, the arrest rate goes down significantly. Eight rapes were reported in McPherson in 2012. Two arrests were made for a 20 percent arrest rate.
Mo Hawkinson, executive officer with the McPherson Police Department, said although 85 percent of people who are sexually assaulted know their attackers, prosecuting cases can be difficult.
Unless evidence is collected within the first 48 hours of an assault, that evidence can be lost, Hawkinson said.
Candace Anderson Dixon, executive director of SA/DVC, urges women to have sexual assault exams conducted, and then they can choose when and if they wish to involve law enforcement.

No exams in McPherson
However, a barrier to McPherson and Marion victims is access to exams. McPherson Hospital does not have a nurse or the equipment to properly conduct a sexual assault exam. This means a victim has to travel to Wichita or Salina to receive an exam.

No shelter
McPherson also does not have a shelter.
Women seeking to leave abusive relationships are usually referred to the nearest shelter in Hutchinson.
Anderson Dixon said this is very difficult for an individual who may have a job and children in school in McPherson and now has to drive back and forth every day. Some women simply do not have the means to do it.
Operating a shelter is an expensive endeavor, Anderson Dixon said. A shelter that receives federal funds also must adhere to many regulations.
Alternatives could be safe homes, which are provided by volunteers, or an apartment or apartments set up for victims who are in crisis.
David Case of the Omega Project, which provides a residential program for men who have addiction problems, said Omega Project has an emergency shelter project in its five-year plan. That project would include women, but would only provide housing for the short term — three to seven days. Further, that project is likely not to materialize for at least two years.

Seeking treatment
Jeni Hanken, director of Mt. Hope Sanctuary, said many of the women her agency deals with in their residential program have been victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. She said most of the woman are in need of extensive professional counseling to overcome these issues. However, most of the women come into the program with no money and no means to afford the counseling they need.
Loffer made available literature on the Crime Victims Compensation program that is available through the state of Kansas.
Crime victims can receive up to $25,000 for costs including counseling, but the crime must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours of the crime unless the Crime Victims Compensation Board finds there was good cause not to report the crime.
More information can be found about this program by calling 785-296-2359 or going to Click on Victim Compensation under the Victim Services tab.

SA/DVC also expressed a need for education, especially of the younger women in the community. According KBI statistics, both the average rape and domestic violence victim is younger than 25 and a white female.
Members of the audience expressed a need to educate girls and young women from middle school-age through college on sexual assault and domestic violence.
Hawkinson, the local DARE officer, said she felt resistance from the school district to this type of education in the McPherson school system. She said she already struggles to get time to teach children her curriculum on drugs and alcohol.
Laura Jones, rural collaboration coordinator with the Kansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said integrating education on sexual assault into school curriculums can be difficult because most districts have policies that allow parents to opt their children out of any educational program involving sexual content.
Shay Maclin of McPherson College said the college plans to work to improve its efforts to educate its students on sexual assault and domestic violence. Loffer said she has given a presentation at Bethany College and hopes to work with Central Christian College on a program to increase awareness of these issues.
A recent survey conducted by SA/DVC indicates a willingness for McPherson residents to tackle issues of domestic violence and sexual assault but low awareness of the problem or the resources that are available in the community.
Jay Warner, a volunteer with CASA, said the group needed to move away from the emotional and look at the hard numbers, such as budgets for local agencies and what the real societal costs will be of doing nothing.
Loffer said, “If we do nothing, in 50 years we will be in the exact same place. In 50 years, we don’t want to be having this meeting.”