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Editorial: Turning Point director fierce advocate for abuse victims


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PAT Smith has accomplished much during his 14 years as director (now president) of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

The administrative changes that have occurred within the organization under his direction have been truly significant.

Community awareness has risen. Police and courts have become active and even aggressive partners in dealing with abusers. A widespread network of community supporters has been enhanced, especially among teenagers and young people who now are well-armed to deal with the issue as they approach adulthood.

Those achievements are important and impressive, but the description that is most aptly applied to him is that he has been a fierce advocate for the victims of domestic violence.

Later this year, he will step down from his position as president of the

organization.

Turning Point has grown in size since he first assumed his role in 1999 with a staff of 12. Today, 35 individuals work in an area that encompasses eight counties.

The real growth, however, has been in the awareness that Smith and others have raised, especially among victims and potential victims. While many of the services offered at the shelter are for those trying to escape the cycle of violence, an even more meaningful effort has been in educating people on how to avoid falling into the trap.

This approach has resonated among teenagers and young adults, who have become champions in their own rights of spreading the message among their peers. One of the major vehicles for disseminating knowledge has been the annual dance marathon, which each year draws hundreds of young people for an evening of entertainment intertwined with educational elements concerning domestic abuse.

It would be difficult to quantify the effectiveness of this increased knowledge, but it has become obvious that domestic violence is no longer deemed by young people to be an inevitable rite of passage in this community.

Smith also fostered strong collaborative relationships with police and court officials in each of the counties served by Turning Point.

He continued and actually accelerated a change in institutional mind-sets among many officials who once looked upon domestic abuse as a private matter among family members. Today it is universally seen as a crime.

Smith did not bring this about by himself. He was joined by colleagues and people from the community who had determined that enough was enough and that domestic violence was not to be tolerated.

He did not initiate the system that is in place today. He built upon and improved the efforts of his predecessors. Having said that, however, it is obvious that had it not been for Pat Smith, we would have had a lot further to go in arresting the growth of domestic violence.

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