At the forefront of the local battle against domestic violence is Daybreak. The women’s shelter was founded in 1986 by then-District Attorney Charles Baker.
Daybreak’s shelter housed 98 victims of domestic violence last year. In addition to the shelter, the program also took 382 crisis calls in 2011, filed for 41 protection from abuse orders and provided court advocacy for 71 additions victims. They referred 594 to other social services agencies and educated 373 students in the Walker County School System on the dangers of dating violence.
Daybreak also sponsors the SAIL Program, which helps women who leave abusive situations get on their feet. They assist in providing relocation expenses and other items to get them started in a new life. The organization assisted 61 clients through this program last year.
Daybreak Executive Director Jan Hulsey has been with Daybreak since the beginning and she works closely with the Board of Directors that oversee operations and with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which advocates domestic violence awareness and intervention around the state.
Current District Attorney Bill Adair has also been involved with Daybreak since the beginning and continues to be one of the shelter’s biggest supporters.
“Daybreak is the best run community resource in our area,” Adair said. “It has provided something for a lot of Walker Countians who needed it.”
Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe has also been involved since the early days and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. She said that one of the most important things regarding law enforcement has been the evolution of domestic violence and teaching officers to deal with aggressors, victims and assessing the situation. Rowe said that the ACADV has done a great deal of work in educating law enforcement officers and advocating change.
Rowe believes that is important because domestic violence is such a widespread problem.
“Regardless of the size of our jurisdiction, we all respond to domestic violence calls,” Rowe said. “Domestic violence is not narrowed to a particular socio or economic demographic. It is across the board, in all neighborhoods, in all jurisdictions, in all races. There is just not a profile of a domestic violence victim or a domestic violence offender. Everyone in law enforcement needs training in that area.”
Adair said that the shelter does a great job of taking immediate reaction and providing what the victims need immediately and over the long term.
“The shelter provides, in my view, the primary safety net, which is emergency shelters for these women and children.” Adair said. ”The secondary thing is access to court services, which Daybreak provides and is a great resource for people going through this,” Adair said. “For a long time that was the second part of the abuse, they didn’t have access to the court system and now that’s being helped by further services of Daybreak.”
National statistics show that a domestic violence victim on average leaves their abuser seven times before they finally leave for good. Hulsey said that recent statistics show that abused women in Alabama leave an average of just four times, putting the state below the average. A database of domestic-violence-related homicides also shows that last year there were 19 murders in that category, a drastic decrease from the 41 killed in 2010.
“I would like to think our work has helped to bring those number down,” Hulsey said.
Adair, Rowe and Hulsey all commended the community for supporting the shelter and their efforts.
Hulsey said that the amount that comes from the state is negligible and may soon be eliminated entirely. The shelter receives funding from the DA’s office, grants and the United Way, but community support is the most important aspect of keeping the shelter operational.
“Domestic violence programs work if law enforcement works with it, if prosecution works with it and the community supports it,” Hulsey said.
“This is a very well respected program and everyone recognizes the financial integrity and security of the program,” Rowe said.
Anyone who is a victim of abuse or needs help can call the Daybreak Crisis Line at 205-384-1157 or the Alabama domestic abuse hotline which will send callers to Daybreak or the nearest resource to them at 1-800-650-6522.