The Desloge Chamber of Commerce’s October spotlight featured the Southeast Missouri Family Violence Council (SEMO FVC) in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with the director of the SEMO Family Violence Council, Tracy Carroll, speaking to chamber members about the shelter's activities.
A trivia competition is planned for 7 p.m., Oct. 28, at St. Paul Lutheran School, 608 E. Columbia St., Farmington, with doors open at 6 p.m. and admission $20 per person for teams of eight to ten people. Those interested in joining the shelter for trivia, food, a silent auction and raffle prizes can register by calling 573-358-3913.
The SEMO FVC can be reached by phone either through the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 1-800-663-9929, by the business line at 573-358-3913, or via fax at 573-358-7786. The council also has a website, which can be reached at https://www.semofvc.net/, and online on Facebook through the Southeast Missouri Family Violence Council page.
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SEMO FVC was founded in 1994 by a group of citizens with a purpose to fill the void of existing services for victims of domestic violence in St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Washington, Iron, and Madison counties. In 1995, a seven-room home was leased from Parkland Health Center for $1 per year. In 1999, a new facility was completed which increased the capacity to 32 beds.
Currently, the shelter houses 32 women and 14 children and has an outreach program with 67 families involved.
“Domestic violence is not going away,” said Carroll, who added, more than one in three women and one in four men experience domestic violence. Last year, Carroll stated, shelters served 54,000 people across Missouri.
“It doesn’t just affect you as far as funding, but it affects you in a lot of ways,” Carroll explained. “If we help these women, they become better people, as far as spending money in the community, buying houses, buying cars. Helping them help them, and us, too.”
Carroll said everyone is welcome to get in touch with the shelter to find out how they can help, including coming by the shelter on Berry Road, calling the location, getting in touch through Facebook or the website, or even sending a fax.
“They come in, and we’re the resource queens. We give them tons and tons of resources. We show them education through MAC, trying to get them education so they can take care of themselves,” said Carroll, “because part of domestic violence is to seclude them.”
According to Carroll, many victims of domestic violence have never had checking accounts, driver’s licenses, saving accounts, and don’t know how to register to vote or drive a car.
“So when they come to us, most of them have never driven a car and we’ve taught many of them to drive in the parking lot next door. A lot of them don’t have even a form of ID, because that’s imperative to the abuser, to keep them secluded,” she said
The goal is to show the victims they can be independent— a hard idea for people who may have been repeatedly told by the abuser they’re worthless, they’ll never be anything, or they’re stupid.
“That’s what abusers do to the women and men they abuse. They indoctrinate them to believe the lies that they have put across their minds,” Carroll said.
In addition to housing women and children, the shelter provides case management, court advocates and outreach services to more than 100 families each year and facilitates weekly support groups for women and children. One of the council's goals to talk at schools with older students about domestic and sexual assault. A law enacted in 2020 requires schools to educate students from sixth to 12th grade about domestic and sexual assault.
“I’m a grandmother of six children, so I get when somebody says they’re going to talk to my children about domestic violence or sex education, it freaks me out too,” said Carroll. “A lot of these children don’t know about these things, because it’s normal to them. It’s normal to go home and be abused or be talked to terribly.”
Last year, Carroll said, the SEMO FVC spoke for a week to Central R-3 students from sixth to eighth grade. She said students often approached them after the talk about things happening in their lives. Carroll explained, domestic violence doesn’t just magically start when in college or once married, but often starts at a younger age.
The shelter is always in need of items, including lightly-used furniture, clothes, sheets, and of course hygiene products. Smaller items can be brought directly to the shelter, but staff would appreciate a call ahead of time for any larger furniture, so the two parties can meet at the storage shed.
Carroll also recognized Terry Kitchell, the building inspector for the city of Desloge who Carroll said had helped a homeless woman recently rather than just driving by.
Danielle Thurman is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-518-3616.