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Federal funds help Rutland fight domestic violence - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Federal funds help Rutland fight domestic violence

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Marianne Kennedy Marianne Kennedy
RUTLAND, Vt. -

Marianne Kennedy is on the front lines of Rutland's war against domestic violence.

"The need is just overwhelming," she said.

Kennedy works for the Rutland County Women's Network & Shelter. Recently, the organization won a $200,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant to tackle a growing problem in the Rutland area.

"For 2012, we have had over 3,000-- almost 4,000 bed nights just in our shelter here, for women who are looking for emergency shelter as victims of domestic violence," Kennedy said.

Rutland is one of 12 cities selected to get the money across the nation. Here, the money will enable police and victims' advocates to better work together.

"A lack of a healthy line of communication between the police, the advocacy community, the courts, the probation and parole, and the social services that treat individuals that are abusers," Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said.

The goal is to end homicides from domestic abuse. Police say there has been one in the last decade in Rutland, but the potential is there for many more. Rutland has the highest number of temporary restraining orders in the state. The number of permanent restraining orders is dramatically lower.

"We are either having victims change their minds-- which is a dangerous situation-- or we are not doing a good enough job at preparing victims to go in front of a judge," Baker said.

"This is a very critical piece to the puzzle," Rutland Mayor Chris Louras said. "We have already identified domestic abuse and some abuse that is associated with it as clearly one of the problems facing the city. And we recognize that is going to be going a long way."

Kennedy says she believes Rutland was chosen to get the federal funds because of its long-term strategies connecting various agencies. She says that will allow for fast and effective change. So, one day there won't be a need.

"We are hoping to go out of business," Kennedy said.

The breakdown of the grant money is still uncertain, but Rutland officials say part of it will fund a full-time domestic abuse advocate at the police station.

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