TIM CHITWOOD: Stop crime by helping the victims escape

December 28, 2013 

You may consider it one of Columbus' most effective crime-prevention program, as few measures prevent crime as effectively as a victim's escape.

That's why donating to Columbus' battered women's shelter Hope Harbour is money well spent: It can help save a woman's life, if she escapes her abuser before he kills her.

As anyone who keeps up with crime news here knows, the women who don't escape sometimes wind up dead: They go from being names and faces to crime statistics.

In 2012, Columbus had 4,247 acts of domestic violence, and those were just the ones reported to law enforcement. Many go unreported, out of embarrassment or fear.

You can send a check to Hope Harbour at P.O. Box 4182, Columbus, GA 31914-0182. But you don't have to give money to help. Like any household hosting 33 women and children, it needs everyday goods.

"Twin-sized sheets, blankets, towels, wash cloths, paper goods, those are the things we always need," said Diane Hett, the shelter director. Hope Harbour often gives those to mothers and children leaving, so they'll have what they need for a new home.

"We go through lots of eating utensils, flatware, plates, cups, so dishes and even cookware, even like spatulas and all, there's always a need for those."

The shelter also needs toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.; bathroom gear such as shower curtains, rods, and hooks; spray cleaner and washing detergent.

Volunteers collect donations 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. each Tuesday outside Rose Hill Baptist Church, 2100 Hamilton Road.

Hett stressed that Hope Harbour is not only a shelter but a service provider for those needing support.

A support group for domestic violence survivors meets 5:30-6:30 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month at the Ronald McDonald House, 1959 Hamilton Road.

Another group meets noon-1 p.m. Wednesdays at an outreach office, the site of which is undisclosed to protect participants. Women interested in that can call 706-221-4774.

The workload never seems to slacken: The shelter harbored 311 women and children in 2012, a 41 percent increase over 2011. Calls to its crisis hotline (706-324-3850) jumped 64 percent over 2011.

So the struggle to save lives continues:

"Every room in the shelter is full," Hett said Friday, "which has been the case all year."

Tim Chitwood, tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-571-8508.

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