OKEECHOBEE – “I’m telling you we have a serious problem in our community,” Jonathan Bean, director of Martha’s House told the Okeechobee County Commissioners at their Sept. 28 meeting. “It isn’t a unique problem to our community, but it is our problem,” he said.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Okeechobee County Commissioners presented a proclamation to Jonathan Bean of Martha’s House.
“In September we have begun new services for 13 women and 24 children,” Bean explained. He said these courageous women took risks to seek refuge at Martha’s House after suffering domestic violence abuse. And September was just an average month, he added.
“Until we are simply not willing to accept this kind of domestic terrorism inside our own homes, it will continue,” he said.
“I encourage everyone: If you see something, say something. It’s our business. Domestic violence is a crime. Everyone of us needs to call it that and to call it out when you see it. By the time it becomes evident, it has usually been going on for a long time. Don’t believe it is the first time when you see it on someone else. When you see it in a friend, or a relative or a coworker or a student, it isn’t the first time.”
He said the people involved need help. Martha’s House is there to help them 24 hours a day, 365 a year. “Refer them to us, call us for advice,” he said. The number is 863-763-0202.
“Domestic violence is a crime that threatens the safety and lives of hundreds of residents of Okeechobee every year, including vulnerable children,” the proclamation states.
“Domestic violence is a public health issue impacting, families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, employees, and schools, causing harm physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially with high economic cost in lost wages, productivity, increased demand on first responders, increased medical costs, and increased need for support services.
“While the State of Florida is recognized nationally as a leader in the creation of groundbreaking domestic violence programs, policies, and services, to victims and their children; Domestic Violence remains a serious threat to our civilized community, and is the largest contributor to homelessness among women and children.
“In the past year Martha’s House, Okeechobee’s only certified Domestic Violence victims center provided services to over 790 survivors of domestic violence including over 4,650 shelter bed nights, over 800 hotline calls, 670 safety plans, 9,400 meals served in shelter, and $17,000 in direct financial assistance,´ the proclamation continues.
“Collaborations between state and private agencies, law enforcement and courts, faith based communities and educational institutions all work together to provide services for survivors and prevent acts of intimate partner violence and to hold perpetrators accountable.”
About Martha’s House:
Martha's House is a full-service domestic violence shelter for survivors and their children and is dedicated toward working to end domestic violence and to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They operate a 24-bed emergency shelter and a 24-hour hotline, provide outreach services, violence prevention education, court hearing accompaniment and injunction assistance and victims' compensation. For more information, go online to marthashouse.org.