This year, Monroe County’s Domestic Abuse Shelter (DAS) received 404 domestic violence hotline calls, served 139 women, 5 men, and 22 children and has been helping victims in Monroe County for 35 years. DAS has a 15-bed emergency shelter, has bought 55 bus passes, and has paid for 20 hotel stays and bought 10 bicycles for local transportation.
Domestic violence does not discriminate by age, financial status, religious affiliation, gender identity, or age. One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to DAS Executive Director Sherrie Schwab.
“We serve all of Monroe County,” said board member Rachel Neller, who is coordinating three “Bubbles and Bids” fundraisers on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m., on Stock Island at The Perry Hotel, in Marathon at Lighthouse Grill, and in Islamorada at Islamorada Beer Company. “If you call us today, we are here to make sure you are safe and assist you to get help.”
The fundraiser wants the community to take a stand against domestic violence, with the proceeds from the silent auctions and specialty cocktails going to the shelter. “I ran into a man the other day who asked how he can help,” said Neller. “His mom fled an abusive relationship with him when he was young and they stayed in a shelter; now he wants to help others who are in the same situation.”
Other services offered beyond the emergency shelter are a 24-hour crisis hotline, individual supportive counseling and advocacy, assessment of children, information and referral, case management, community education, professional training, primary prevention, courthouse advocacy, outreach services and safety planning. All services are accessed through the 24-hour crisis line, 305-743-4440.
And all of it is for free. “We don’t charge the victims of domestic violence one penny,” said Neller.
Jennifer Powell, also a board member of DAS, said Monroe County doesn’t have any less of an issue than anywhere else. “It’s a blight on our society and I am working as hard as I can to help people who are trying to survive this,” she said. “It is difficult to reach out for help. I want people to know that we are there for them.”
The shelter is working on a capital campaign to eventually rebuild the 25-bed Middle Keys shelter that was lost in Hurricane Irma. In the meantime, officials are working on outreach and matching funds with fundraisers like the upcoming “Bubbles and Bids.”
For more information on the shelter or the upcoming fundraisers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘All I have left is memories’
“Are you hungry?” One blink. “Want me to change the channel?” Two blinks. “Are you comfortable?” Two blinks. “I love you, mom.” One blink. “Meet your first granddaughter!” A smile, one blink. “Happy birthday” One blink.
This is how Alyssa Morgan, a teacher at Stanley Switlik, used to communicate with her mom. One blink for yes. Two blinks for no. On April 14, 2012, her mother was strangled, beaten, and left for dead by someone she tried to love and support. She was a victim of domestic violence.
“This can happen to anyone,” said Morgan. “Your sister, your co-worker, your best friend, college roommate, neighbor, and even you.”
Every 10 seconds someone becomes a victim of domestic violence. Morgan urges people to volunteer, support and donate to domestic abuse shelters. “The more word gets out about this, the more likely someone’s life will be saved,” she said.
On Oct. 9, 2015, Jean Marie Morgan died. Her daughters Alyssa and Krista, both Marathon High School graduates, never heard their mom’s pretty voice again because of domestic violence.