Shelter opens, community supports effort

Just days before the Abuse Counseling and Training (ACT) women’s shelter opened its doors to accept clients, the community showed its continuing support for women and children stuck in abusive situations. ACT held its domestic Violence Inaugural Luncheon Friday, August 7, at Florida SouthWestern College. Many groups and organizations, including two gentlemen from the Minnesota Twins, were on hand for the event.

ACT Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Benton introduced staff and explained that ACT has two shelters in Lee County as well as the new one for Hendry-Glades, provides outreach counseling and has a toll free help line. In Hendry and Glades counties you can call their domestic violence hotline toll-free at 1-800-500-1119 or sexual assault hotline 1-888-956-7273. They can also be emailed at act@actabuse.com.

Scot Goldberg Esq, of Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro and Noone, LLC introduced the keynote speaker for the event, but offered some comments of his own first. Mr. Goldberg has been a prosecutor and is now a partner in the law firm of Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro and Noone, LLC. He has known the keynote speaker, Assistant State Attorney Francine Donnorummo, for many years.

She earned her law degree in 1992 and came to Fort Myers in 1997 after working in civil law. Mr. Goldberg said she has prosecuted an impressive 100 cases in the Domestic Violence Unit.

Ms. Donnorummo said she first learned about domestic violence as a clinic intern, but it quickly became her passion and she has dedicated her career to victimized women and children.

“Child abuse and domestic violence feed off each other,” she said. Women who are embroiled in a domestic violence situation are afraid and homeless. Their needs are many and complicated. They need safety, a plan, housing, food, toiletries, etc., even before they can begin to seriously take steps toward becoming independent. Those steps include changing their bank account, changing their address to a post office box, making new friends, and mending broken relationships. They need a lawyer, an advocate and support in all ways.

In addition to fear, these women suffer from low self esteem – and often come with kids, who have their own needs.

Shelters like the new one for Hendry and Glades give them hope, a decent place to stay, safety and support. It’s a place where they can gather strength and martial their resources. They benefit from a loving caring staff, and help with their complicated legal status.

Ms. Donnorummo went on to say that it’s the SAO’s job to hold abusers criminally accountable.

It is part of ACT’s job to raise awareness of domestic violence; to help the public understand how to be on the victim’s side – don’t judge them if they can’t move on. They deserve respect.

She also noted that, with all the resources they have, even celebrities can be in domestic violence situations.

She pointed out that the court system needs to rally and convict both men and women for misdemeanor domestic violence, before situations get out of hand.

The SAO works with other agencies including Department of Children and Families. Domestic violence includes child and elder abuse. In fact, kids are taught to be abusers in the home and are also taught to become victims in the home. Parents and extended families need to be models of healthy behavior for their own children and for others.

The community can help by donating food, clothes, toys and entertainment items as well as money.

Patty Brant, can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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