In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act being signed into law, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, visited the Fulton-Mason Crisis Service Friday afternoon and Canton’s mayor declared October to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.
Bustos met with the center’s executive director, Phyllis Todd, and other staff members, as well as Canton Police Chief Kent McDowell and officer Candi Arnold.
Bustos spoke about her efforts against domestic violence and said that she voted to strengthen VAWA.
“I’m thrilled that she chose to come visit the program in Canton,” Todd said after the visit ended.
According to Todd, Fulton-Mason Crisis Service has seen benefits from VAWA, most notably with domestic victims being able to seek legal protection from his or her significant other.
“It really empowers victims, whether male or female, in the legal system,” she said. “Without this act, women would still be seen as property.”
Todd said that VAWA has helped decease domestic violence nationally and has saved an estimated $1.6 billion in costs from domestic violence, including medical, social workers, police and court expenses.
In addition to directly helping those affected by domestic violence, the crisis service also works with local law enforcement agencies as well.
Todd works with McDowell on officer protocols in response to domestic violence while Arnold works mainly with domestic violence cases. Arnold also does police training in which she helps teach aspiring officers how to handle a domestic violence case and how to talk to victims.
“The goal really is to make sure the victims have a voice and aren’t re-victimized,” Todd said, adding that the criminal justice system can sometimes be harsh to victims.
Yet, Todd said that the Fulton-Mason Crisis Service faces a lack in resources, including a shelter, transportation and day care.
According to Todd, the most important thing necessary to fight domestic violence is a cultural change like the one that she said occurred in the ’70s and ’80s when legislators stopped seeing domestic violence was a family matter in which they had no place to interfere.
She added that acts like VAWA and involvement from community members and organizations are important in showing society that any kind of violence is not okay.
“I would hope that violence just won’t be acceptable in our society,” Todd said.
Earlier Friday, Todd was with Canton Mayor Jeffrey Fritz when he signed a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the City of Canton.
The Fulton-Mason Crisis Service serves both Fulton and Mason Counties, and often has an average of 700 unique cases a year.