The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Group aids violence victims


The Iowa Women’s Foundation awards a grant to the Iowa Youth Writing Project.

By Anders Frieberg
[email protected]

New funding in statewide programs seeks to relieve some of the pressures victims of domestic violence face.

The Iowa Women’s Foundation recently awarded the Iowa Youth Writing Project a grant for $5,000 for its Writing for Change program. The funds will support continued programming and become available in January.

At the John McDonald Residential Treatment Center in Monticello, the Writing Project hosts a writing program for teenage women aged 13 to 17 who have been victims of some form of domestic violence. The program focuses on healing and self-advocacy through creative literary work.

The Writing Project is classified as a nonprofit organization associated with the University of Iowa, with money coming from the Office of the Provost and community-based funding. Director Mallory Hellman said the majority of community-based funds come from donations and grants.

“The mission of the [group] is to empower, inspire, and educate youth through literacy and creative thinking,” Hellman said. “It’s our ardent hope that if our students see writing as a fun, accessible, and useful tool, they’ll be able to use it to pave the way for a brighter future.”

She said money will go to providing supplies to the writers, acquiring technology for formatting students’ anthologies, hiring a book designer for the end of the semester anthologies, gas money for volunteers, and hosting a reception for the writers in the spring.

Hellman also said the grant’s use in the Writing for Change program at Monticello would serve to benefit around 30 young women, with 35 in the program last year.

Iowa Women’s Foundation Executive Director Dawn Oliver Wiand said this year would be the second the organization has funded the Youth Writing Program through a grant, although the foundation itself relies completely on charitable donations.

She said the foundation awarded slightly more than $60,000 last year and will award almost $90,000 to 16 organizations this year.

“We had 72 requests for almost half a million dollars,” she said. “Being one of 16 says a lot.”

Wiand said the foundation awards grants to programs that improve the lives of women and girls, and this particular program helps a group of girls who sometimes get overlooked.

She also said the grant would directly help victims of domestic violence.

“It’s going to help the girls, providing them with mentors and writing opportunities that will build their self-confidence and hope, and empower them to stand up for themselves and give themselves a voice,” she said.

Iowa City has a full-time domestic violence investigator who follows up on such incidents, which totaled 575 in 2014, according to the 2014 crime report.

Iowa City police Detective Scott Stevens said it was hard to say whether domestic violence was on the rise or not in Iowa City. He said different factors can influence the official numbers, such as reporting, and that there has been an upward trend in the official numbers.

“I hope that’s a combination of less reluctance to report and more bystander intervention or reporting on domestic violence,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t directly attribute it to any rise in the rate of crime.”

He said the issue was big, but the police were skilled in domestic violence cases.

“We do a very good job of handling it,” Stevens said. “We have great victim services and a high position in place — a full time detective who works on domestic-violence cases.”

Along with help from trained police, victims are immediately given contact information for victim services.

Prevention efforts are more centered on education, but Stevens hopes response-oriented intervention also offers prevention.

“We know the kids who are exposed to domestic violence are much more likely to use violence in relationships when they are adults,” said Stevens.

Stevens said the heart of intervention is the meeting between law enforcement and victim advocacy. When victims do not trust law enforcement to be effective, victim services can immediately help.

“Crimes of violence against women are one of the only that aren’t on the decline,” Stevens said. “It’s a very big problem, it’s one we need to continue to work to combat and intervene upon.”

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