Helping domestic violence victims: ‘Door to Hope’

Griswold / MCT

In Florida, domestic violence remains one of the most critical issues affecting our families and our children. We know that the category, “family violence threatens child,” ranks among the top three highest volumes of calls to the Statewide Child Abuse Hotline each year. The annual Florida Uniform Crime Report continues to reflect that about 20 percent of all homicides in our state are the result of domestic violence. That same report illustrated that domestic violence murders increased 6.1 percent last year. Too many women, children, and men are being killed by the person that says they love them the most.

During my time as first lady of Florida, I visited domestic violence shelters throughout the state and spent significant time talking with women and children who fled their homes the night before with nothing but the clothes on their backs. That experience led me to become a founding board member of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, whose goal is to create a statewide private revenue stream to ensure life-saving services for domestic violence victims and their children and make sure they are less dependent on government resources.

With the continued support of our legislative, corporate, and community leaders, Florida can be the first in the nation to create a statewide blueprint for ensuring the long-term sustainability of providing services for domestic violence survivors and their children.

As you know, October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Last year, I requested that everyone take one step or action to prevent domestic violence. Wow — I was so pleased to hear from many of you regarding the action steps you were taking within your communities.

I heard from a father who dedicated dinnertime to discussing the signs of both an abusive and healthy relationship with his children. A mother of four wrote that she spent one day a week volunteering at her local domestic violence center, and her children opened a lemonade stand in their neighborhood during the summer to raise money for the shelter.

As we embark on Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I ask you once again to take just one step during the next weeks to educate your children, teens, neighbors, and co-workers about the devastating impacts of domestic violence. I encourage each of you to wear the color purple, which represents a message of unity to end domestic violence in our country.

Your actions inspire me, so please email and tell me what your action steps are to prevent and end domestic violence in your community. I know that every action you take is improving or saving a life.

Last year, Jeb and I hosted the first annual “Door to Hope” event to raise funds for Florida’s domestic violence centers, and we are thrilled to report the event exceeded our expectations.

We are pleased to host this year’s event on Oct. 26 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. I was excited when Verizon announced they would serve as our co-host and Signature sponsor this year with Allstate serving as our Diamond sponsor. Both of these corporations possess a long history of dedicating funding to increase domestic violence services while also raising awareness about this horrific crime.

For more information, contact Leisa Wiseman at 850-284-4352 or email: Please consider joining us for a fun-filled evening of great food, great people, and a great silent auction while we raise money for a cause that saves the lives of women and children in our state.

Columba Bush, a former first lady of Florida, is a founding board member of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, Inc.

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