Highland Park Action Committee recap: Halloween; jail; “DV 101”

October 27, 2008 11:56 pm
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Big week for the Highland Park Action Committee — it’s sponsoring Highland Park Neighborhood Halloween on Friday night, with the Highland Park Improvement Club building as headquarters for family-geared fun. But first, tonight it was the regular monthly meeting, including a briefing on recognizing domestic violence and helping its victims, and the last-minute arrival of HPAC’s chair, fresh out of the City Councils budget hearing, with news about the ongoing fight against the potential construction of a city jail in West Seattle — read on for details:

HPAC vice chair Rory Denovan led the meeting in the absence (till the final minutes) of chair Dorsol Plants, who was representing the group at the standing-room-only budget hearing downtown. (Seattle Channel video of the five-hour hearing should eventually turn up here.)

We’ll fast-forward first to Plants’ report, once he arrived at the HPAC meeting after speaking at the budget hearing. He said both the council chambers and the nearby Bertha Landes Room were “jammed,” and briefly displayed a placard that had been displayed, saying “Question Inevitability: No New Jail.”

He recounted that the theme of the fight over the 4 proposed sites (including 2 in southeastern West Seattle) has moved from “no jail in West Seattle” to “no new jail,” period. “It doesn’t benefit ANY neighborhood,” Plants said, saying that those banding together to contend the jail’s not needed would like to see more emphasis on programs like Southeast Seattle’s CURB (which apparently is actually facing cuts, according to this P-I column), to reduce the need for new jail facilities.

More specifically to the point of the jail, Plants and Denovan say Councilmember Nick Licata has agreed to back a budget amendment that would add a condition to the money set aside in next year’s budget for the jail pre-construction process; they say it would require that the city could not access that money “without proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no other alternative to building a new jail.” Plants said details of that amendment should be available later this week.

He also added that you can send budget feedback to city councilmembers even if you weren’t at tonight’s hearing — the budget process will continue for several more weeks; you can find their addresses at the council’s website (Councilmember Jean Godden chairs the budget committee, so make sure she’s on your e-mail list).

And HPAC is proceeding with plans to gather area businesspeople, including those in the “Duwamish corridor” on the eastern border of Highland Park, for a meeting at 4:30 pm 11/6 to talk about the jail proposal and its potential impacts. The meeting’s planned for the Junction business office of HPAC’s Ken Knoke, in the Jefferson Square tower at 42nd and Alaska, suite 600. They’re still looking for help in getting the word out to area businesses; as Denovan put it, “A jail could potentially have a significant economic impact on the neighborhood.”

The city is not alone in facing a budget crunch, as Plants noted; the county is looking at an even more dire situation, and he said he’s particularly concerned about funding for the White Center Family Planning program just over the city/county border from Highland Park. (Side note — The King County budget will be in the spotlight at 7 pm Wednesday at Steve Cox Memorial Park‘s “log cabin,” as Sheriff Sue Rahr, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and other public-safety leaders visit for a “town hall” meeting.)

After concluding the discussion about the budget and tonight’s hearing, Plants called up longtime HPAC member Ann Owchar for a special honor — a certificate of appreciation for her 20 years of work with the group, including serving as its representative to the District Council:


(Photo courtesy Dina Johnson)
Her service with Soroptimist International Seattle South also was noted, along with that group’s fundraisers (she waved the latest Entertainment coupon book – before noting she’d already sold all but 1) such as Hospitality House in Burien, a shelter for women.

Now rewinding through the meeting: Graffiti vandalism came up, as it had in previous months; one victim reported being told by police that they believe they know who’s responsible – but they need help catching them in the act – if you see anyone who looks like they’re tagging, call police immediately.

The latest area crime roundup from police, written up by Community Police Team Officer Adonis Topacio, was summarized — nothing major.

As a buffer between the crime report and the ensuing guest presentation, Dina Johnson interjected at that point: “It would be a crime if you don’t VOTE!” (Dina spends many volunteer hours in local political activism, including her voter-registration drive at Alki in suffragette garb, as seen here last month; we’ll take this moment to interject a reminder that if you vote by mail, you can also drop off your ballot at Delridge Neighborhood Services Office round-the-clock between now and 8 pm Election Night.)

At many community meetings, it’s a tradition to invite guest speakers from time to time, particularly in the spirit of addressing pervasive problems, in hopes of finding solutions. And problems don’t get much bigger than domestic violence — affecting one of every four women at some point in their lifetime (and some men too), according to Sarah Sorensen from the Seattle Police Victim Support Team, who presented a crash course in what she called “DV 101”:


(Photo courtesy Dina Johnson)
She began her presentation with an exercise that resulted in the list on the butcher paper you see at the left side of the photo above — asking attendees to call out the reasons that might have ever kept them from leaving a job they no longer were happy with. It was quickly clear that some of those same reasons — financial dependency, fear of the unknown — were comparable to the reasons why a domestic-violence victim might not immediately leave an abusive relationship.

Her key points involved eye-opening observations, as well as myth-debunking. Such as:

–Much of what makes up “domestic violence” is NOT illegal — calling someone names, controlling their finances — but they make up a pattern that can point to someone caught in that kind of situation.

–Domestic violence isn’t just about the violence and its effects. “The bruises heal — but the emotional trauma lasts longer,” Sorensen said.

–A relationship isn’t violent from the start (“if someone hit you on the first date, would you go out with them a second time?” she asked rhetorically) but goes downward in a spiral — from a low point, it curves up for a while, then goes lower, then up a bit, then lower still, and so on.

–Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes

–It happens in diverse situations — cutting across lines of culture, race, sexual orientation (“Abuse in same-sex couples, for example, might involve the abusive partner threatening to ‘out’ the other one at her/his job,” Sorensen elaborated, continuing on to say that immigration status also can lead to similar abuse, with a partner threatening, “I’m going to get you deported” or “I’m going to take all your papers.” Seattle Police do NOT call immigration authorities on people in domestic-violence situations, she said.)

–It’s wrong to judge the victim — “is she crazy, why can’t she just leave” — Sometimes, there’s nowhere to go; turnaway rates at shelters are very high, “1 family taken in for every 8 turned away,” according to Sorensen.

If you know someone in a domestic violence situation, Sorensen suggested “helpful things to say”:

–It’s not your fault

–Battering is against the law

–It happens to a lot of women

Offer assistance, offer a safety plan, but don’t try to “take the place of the abuser” by telling them exactly what to do. And don’t insist they leave — “it takes an average of 7 times for a woman to leave the relationship,” Sorensen said. Finally, if you are trying to help a friend or relative, “be extremely careful about your own safety; don’t go into a situation where you are going to have TWO victims.”

The volunteers who comprise the heart of the VST team step in during “moments of crisis,” Sorensen explained, equipped with “165 resources in 17 languages.” The VST has about 100 volunteers at any given time — each work at least one shift a month, and those shifts are on weekends, since the department has paid office-based advocates who can counsel victims during the week. VST volunteers go through extensive training; if you’re interested in joining, her contact info is here, along with more information on the training that’s required.

Whether you’re interested in volunteering or not, you can read more about domestic violence, how to recognize it, and what to do about it, via these resource links on the Seattle Police website.

Next meeting of the Highland Park Action Committee is 7 pm Monday 11/24/08 (with disaster preparedness and officer elections on the agenda), but don’t forget Highland Park Halloween this Friday night — besides candy for the kids, food will be on sale too (hot dogs, pulled-pork sandwiches) — 5:30 to 8:30, same location as the meetings, Highland Park Improvement Club building, 11th/Holden, here’s a map.

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