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Funding to fight domestic violence in Birmingham

The Alabama Women's Fund gave $105,000 to fight domestic violence in Birmingham last week.

The money was divided among YWCA Central Alabama, Jefferson County Family Violence Coordinated Community Response, Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Birmingham Police Department.

The Women's Fund is an organization of female lawyers who seek to reduce domestic violence in Birmingham by ensuring that domestic abusers are prosecuted properly. The group believes this is the best way to reduce domestic violence.

"When perpetrators of domestic violence are held accountable and the community is given the tools they need to intervene consistently, women and children will be safe in their homes," said The Women's Fund administrator Holly Hilton.

The Women's Fund executive director Virginia Sweet said it is important to fund shelters for victims as well, but providing money to keep women safe has not been sufficient in reducing the incidence of domestic violence in the past. The money given will fund the new approach to end domestic violence by keeping violators accountable.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the Birmingham area to assist the battle against domestic violence," said Safe Harbor advocate Julia James.

Domestic violence includes physical assault, sexual abuse and stalking. Emotional, economic and psychological abuse are also considered domestic violence. Penalties vary depending on the severity of the violence but can include fines and jail time.

Birmingham isn't the only place suffering from domestic violence.

"Domestic violence is a big problem across the nation, including in Auburn," said Auburn Police Capt. Tom Stofer.

Stofer said the police department encounters domestic violence almost daily. It's a problem dealt with by students and Auburn citizens alike.

"Domestic violence knows no class or race," Stofer said. "It's all across the board."

Safe Harbor is an Auburn University organization focused on stopping domestic violence against women. The group aims to reduce domestic violence by offering advocacy and counseling services, as well as providing domestic violence awareness programs for both women and men.

Sweet said it is necessary for men to be involved in the fight against domestic violence.

"Domestic violence has been labeled a women's issue when the majority of perpetrators are men," Sweet said.

The Women's Fund provides money for the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence to involve men by incorporating domestic violence safety policies in the workplace.

"Often, when men in the workplace become aware of the prevalence of domestic violence and receive tools to respond to situations appropriately, they start taking a stand against domestic violence and give abusers the message that abusive behavior is not tolerated," Sweet said.

According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. Domestic abuse affects 5.3 million women in the U.S. every year. In Alabama, the National Network to End Domestic Violence's 24-hour 2008 census reported a high of 649 victims of domestic violence were treated in one day.

"Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence should seek assistance and support both legally and emotionally," James said. "Women who are battered should seek assistance in developing a safety plan. Know who to contact. Know where to go. Have arrangements in place with a trusted family member, friend or neighbor."

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