Year of Peace expands to tackle domestic violence

March 10, 2015 by

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Janet Eubanks gives a report during Tuesday’s lunch on one of the speakers at the February conference in Topeka.

A discussion that began more than six years ago deepened Tuesday as participants in the 28th “working lunch” of the Community Needs Forum considered statistics about and solutions to domestic violence and sexual assault.

“When we started these forums in 2009,” Sister Jean Rosemarynoski reminded the 30 or so people attending the meeting at the Nazareth Motherhouse, “this was one of the top issues.”

That issue “kind of morphed” into the Year of Peace Committee, with a focus on treating all people with respect to eliminate violence.

But, she added, concern over domestic violence has come up a number of times since then, “yet it was an issue that seemed too big and too complex for a small group to work on alone.”

The issue was spotlighted again when the Community Foundation for Cloud County helped pay for 11 people from Concordia to attend a conference last month in Topeka. Those attending included representatives from social service agencies, the public schools, the court system, Cloud County Community College and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Several of the people who went to the conference – titled “Reweaving our social fabric: Engaging to present sexual and domestic violence” — gave reports at Tuesday’s lunch.

Janet Eubanks of the college noted that one of the speakers made a powerful point: “He said we’re not raising boys to be men; we’re raising them to not be women — by saying ‘you throw like a girl’ or ‘don’t be a sissy.’”

Julie Willoughby of the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas — DVACK — said another speaker provided practical tips on working against “rape culture,” in which sexual assault is underreported because victims feel shame after the crime.

Concordia Police Chief Bruce Johnson discusses crime statistics as part of Tuesday's lunch meeting.

Concordia Police Chief Bruce Johnson discusses crime statistics as part of Tuesday’s lunch meeting.

Police Chief Bruce Johnson said that some people have said the rates for sexual assault and domestic violence are higher in Concordia than elsewhere, but that’s not true. He said the rates when figured on a per capita basis are about the same in Concordia as in nearby cities, with the exception of Salina, which has a significantly higher crime rate. He said Concordia’s rate is also about the same as other cities of similar size elsewhere in Kansas.

But, he noted, “A lot of the (domestic) abuse that goes on it not physical, it’s verbal and mental. That’s just as bad, but it’s harder to deal with.”

As a next step, those who attended the Topeka conference have joined with the Year of Peace Committee to bring at least one major speaker to Concordia to talk about sexual assault and domestic violence.

The enlarged committee will also continue work on other projects, including the Civility Pledge.

The pledge — which calls for people to promise to be civil and respectful in their actions toward others — has been circulated each spring for the past five years.

This year, it will be launched as part of National Night Out on Aug. 4 and will be a part of the public schools’ anti-bullying education as the school year begins.

The Community Needs Forum grew out of informal meetings between the Sisters of St. Joseph and community leaders in the fall of 2008. The first working lunch was held in January 2009, and the continuing gatherings have identified what participants see as the greatest needs in the community and have established smaller groups to seek solutions. The working lunches continue to provide an opportunity for updates on projects and a clearinghouse for new ideas.

The next quarterly lunch will be Wednesday, June 17, and everyone is invited to take part; you don’t have to have attended earlier lunches to join the process now.

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