By Susan Latiolait for Eugene Daily News
Now in their 35th year, Womenspace remains dedicated to prevention of domestic violence in intimate partner relationships in the Eugene community. Since Domestic Violence Awareness month last October, Womenspace and Lane County’s Domestic Violence Counsel are looking to further their support and education to the community with their new year long prevention campaign, “It Takes a Community to End Silence”. By signing the pledge, supporters promise to not abuse their partners and are educated on the rights of respect they deserve in a relationship
Peggy Whalen, Executive Director of Womenspace since 2009, has high hopes that this pledge will bring further awareness and education to the Eugene community.
“We are trying to get everyone to take a pledge to stop and prevent violence in their own lives,” explained Whalen. “We started with the county commissioners and they all signed the pledge. And now our goal is to get 70,000 pledges by the end of this year because that is the estimated amount of women in Lane County that will be affected by domestic violence [in their lifetime.]”
These new efforts being made to spread the word of support and respect to victims in Eugene illustrate a large expansion on services since Womenspace’s start in 1975.
Beginning with a small group of concerned women recognizing a problem of intimate partner violence during the women’s rights movement, Womenspace started from one woman offering her home phone line to the public as a 24-hour hotline for victims in Eugene in need of help. Today, that original home number remains the number of Womenspace’s 24-hour crisis line.Two years later, in 1977, their first shelter opened.
Whalen shares the same devotion to helping victims of intimate partner violence held by the founders. She hopes that Womenspace will be able to continue to provide their many crucial services to victims in Eugene, including their Crisis and Support Center, the 24-hour crisis line, and transition housing, despite struggles with funding.
“We are bursting at seams. What is happening with the impact of the changes in the economy, we are seeing a greater need for our services while our funding has decreased, so we have actually had to reduce our services. It’s just a fact, I don’t have a single paid advocate in my Crisis and Support Center, I don’t have the funding for that,” said Whalen.
“The funding has been cut substantially in all of our agencies. Fundraising is harder to due because people have less money to give.”
Womenspace offers volunteer programs and various opportunities around the community in order to help the organization as much as possible. With the holiday season approaching, Womenspace offers gift-wrapping services at the Holiday Market every weekend, with all profits benefiting the organization. However, one key aspect that Whalen would like to focus on is education and prevention services, an area that is unable to grow.
“How do we stop [the problem]? We teach kids about healthy relationships. But, right now, finding funding for prevention is impossible,” said Whalen. “So I would really love to see some funding for education so we can talk to kids about what a healthy relationship looks like.”
To show your support for Womenspace and victims of intimate partner violence, be sure to sign the pledge to show support for their “It Takes a Community to End Silence” campaign, sign up for their next volunteer training session available in January, and donate to the cause by visiting them at local functions such as their Holiday Market gift-wrapping station.