Is domestic abuse a problem for our area? Franklin County's safe houses in Saranac Lake and Malone had about a 12 percent occupancy rate, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services. This seems low, but it doesn't necessarily mean there isn't a problem.
More likely the reason is that people needing the service didn't know about it or were too scared or ashamed to ask for help. Also, Malone's safe house had become not so safe after its location became known to more people than should have known, so many victims were not comfortable staying there.
ComLinks recently decided to relinquish its contract to provide domestic-violence victim services for Franklin County, and Behavioral Health Services North will take over the role. We applaud this move and believe the program can be run efficiently since Behavioral Health Services North already provides those services for Essex and Clinton counties.
Running this program and having an available safe house for victims costs money. Luckily, years ago a person who believed in the program generously donated the safe house in the Saranac Lake area. It is real estate that cannot be sold for any other purpose other than helping the abused find refuge.
We believe that this use of this house should continue. We believe the occupancy rate can be raised by reaching those who haven't come forward and letting them know there is a way to have a better life.
Just in one day, more than 4,700 people in New York have received help from domestic violence organizations. In 2009, police in Franklin County handled a total of 124 victims of domestic violence: 52 women, 13 men and 59 classified as "other family victims." Tupper Lake village police handled the most victims with 46, and Saranac Lake village police handled 39. State police handled 33, and Malone village police handled six.
While violence does not discriminate gender-wise, our culture tends to ignore the fact that men are abused as well as women, although they are much less likely to report it. That's probably why only 13 men, reported it to police in Franklin County in 2009.
Therefore, we encourage a swift transition to Behavioral Health Services North to ensure that all those who take the step to seek help find it easily, promptly and safely.
In the meantime, those who need help with domestic violence issues should call 518-563-6904 or 1-888-563-6904, BHSN's toll-free, 24-hour-a-day hotline.