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PLAN TO AID ABUSE VICTIMS UNFUNDED

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City after city in Davis County has refused to fund plans for a program that would give battered women and children refuge from their abusers.

After nine months of lobbying, the Davis County Coalition Against Violence has collected less than $2,500 from city councils. The group had hoped to gather about $25,000 to pay a full-time coordinator.But elected officials in nine of Davis County's 15 incorporated cities have turned thumbs down to the plan, saying a "yes" vote would open the door to a flood of requests from nonprofit organizations.

The coalition, led by Faye Purdy, wife of Davis County Commissioner Gerald Purdy, wanted the cities to pay for a coordinator and crisis-line that would help women who have been abused by their husbands or boyfriends.

Eventually, the coalition wanted the coordinator to work with state and federal officials in building a family shelter in Davis County.

The county needs such a program and shelter, and state officials would be more than willing to work with the coalition, said Le Roy Franke, domestic violence specialist for the state Division of Family Services.

"Often, it takes a grass-roots movement like this to make something happen," he said. "Society and government is sometimes slow to recognize that this problem exists." He said it's time for county leaders to "wake up" and support intervention for families troubled by domestic violence.

Statistics support that plea.

Your Community Connection, the Ogden crisis center that serves troubled families, counseled thousands of abuse victims from Davis County last year. The center's work in the county included:

- Housing for one or more nights for 132 battered women and children.

- Answering 1,200 phone calls from families concerning domestic violence.

- One-on-one counseling to 40 sexual assault victims.

- Counseling 27 offenders through the center's domestic violence offenders' program.

Franke said there are "many more" victims of domestic abuse than currently are being served. "It's a hidden crime," he said.

Most elected leaders agree the problem is real but still are reluctant to earmark taxpayer money or to see other municipalities commit cash.

"I know this is a real problem but it ought to be something Davis County (government) handles. It is a countywide problem," said Bountiful City Councilman Harold Shafter.

The council directed city staff last month to write a letter to the Davis County Commission asking it to fund the program. Clearfield and Layton city officials also signed the letter.

But commission members say the cities were "presumptive" in sending them the letter. "If (Davis County) had the money, this proposal would have never gone to the Council of Governments," said Gayle Stephenson, commission chairman. COG heard Faye Purdy's proposal some time ago and referred her to the cities.

City leaders knew that, Stephenson said. "It's easy to ask someone to take the lead. The county just doesn't have money for it," he said, suggesting the coalition pursue grants from the state or federal government.

Purdy, meanwhile, says she gets discouraged but won't give up. "We know how serious this is . . . we'll just keep pushing."