Letters to the Editor

Help Florida confront domestic violence

Domestic violence continues to be one of the most critical issues affecting Florida’s families and children. In fact, children represent almost 50 percent of the residents in emergency shelters at any given time.

During fiscal year 2013-2014, Florida’s 42 certified domestic-violence centers provided emergency shelter to 15,611 people — 7,219 were children. These certified centers are the primary lifelines for domestic-violence victims and their children. Through my work with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), I’ve learned that these centers employ a comprehensive and seamless approach to providing services to survivors and their children.

In an effort to increase private revenue for Florida’s domestic violence centers, I became a founding board member of the FCADV Foundation, whose goal is to create a statewide, private-revenue stream to ensure that life-saving services for domestic violence victims are less dependent on government resources.

On Oct. 25, Jeb and I hosted the third annual Door to Hope fundraiser that benefits the Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of so many, the event netted more than $400,000 in revenue, with a three-year total of about $1 million.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and purple was the campaign’s signature color.

We coordinated our efforts to create a “top of mind awareness” of the impact that domestic violence has in Florida, our communities and our families. Perhaps you noticed purple bows hanging on a friend’s front door or received an invitation to a fundraising event for a local domestic violence center.

Perhaps you saw a public-service announcement that displayed the Statewide Domestic Violence hotline number.

Last year, I challenged every Floridian to take one step toward preventing domestic violence. I received hundreds of responses from moms, dads and teens.

One of my favorite responses was from a 16-year-old named Angela whose mother told her that to earn her allowance she would be required to watch a two-hour educational video on how to identify the signs of an unhealthy relationship, and then conduct an educational presentation to her family on what she learned.

A single father of three sons, ages 12-17 responded that each week at dinner he discussed the importance of respecting girls and treating them appropriately. Countless others donated food, clothes, time and money to their local domestic-violence shelters.

During the summer, I overheard an advocate working at one of our shelters say, “Domestic violence happens every day, every week and every month.” Adults should share with teenagers how to approach friends who are in unhealthy relationships. Set aside time and talk with boys about how to treat girls with respect. Commit to taking one action step for the next 12 months.

I am humbled to work side by side with each of you to end this crime that permeates our communities. For more information about the FCADV Foundation, visit www.fcadv.org/foundation.

Columba Bush, Coral Gables