Domestic violence center gets new acting director


A senior staff member of The Domestic Violence Center of Howard County Inc. has been named acting head of the agency, which serves battered women.

Stephanie K. Sites, the center's director of residential services, was appointed the acting executive director in July. She replaces Fran Price, who left to pursue other opportunities, said Terry Farrell, president of the center's 25-member board of directors.

Ms. Sites was chosen acting head because she has the most seniority, knows about domestic violence, and has good managerial skills and a rapport with government officials, Mr. Farrell said.

In October, Mr. Farrell said, the board plans to begin the selection process to find a new head. The new executive director's salary will range from $28,000 to $35,000.

Ms. Sites joined the Columbia-based center in 1989 as director of residential services. She was responsible for the overall operation of the center's Safehouse emergency shelter and three transitional shelters.

"Stephanie's strong background and dedication to the efforts of ending domestic violence will ensure a smooth transition until a new executive director is appointed," Mr. Farrell said.

During Ms. Price's two-year stay, the non-profit group opened two additional transitional shelters, nearly tripling its capacity. It also increased counseling in clinical services by 550 percent and increased the center's budget 15 percent from $300,000 to $350,000, Mr. Farrell said.

"She [Ms. Price]left because she thought she had accomplished everything she wanted to do," Mr. Farrell said.

The Domestic Violence Center, formerly named Citizens Against Spousal Assault, or CASA, was established in 1976 to work against domestic abuse in the county, and to inform the public about the problem. Every 15 seconds a woman is abused in this country, according to the FBI.

Before the center was built, women in Howard County like others across the nation, had no place to go, Mr. Farrell said.

"They turned to doctors, ministers, relatives or neighbors they could trust," he said. "Most stayed with their abusers."

During the last 16 years, domestic violence has received greater attention, and abused women realize they have alternatives, Farrell said.

"Woman can say, 'Hey, I'm not going to be beaten anymore' " and leave, he said.

The Domestic Violence Center offers a 24-hour help-line to women, housing and individual, group or family counseling.

The victims stay 60 to 65 days at the Safehouse, a seven-bed crisis shelter, or up to 18 months in the transitional shelters, where they learn to become more self-sufficient, Mr. Farrell said.

Since it opened, "thousands" of women have been helped, he said.

In March 1991, the center began a new 12-week program for abusive men called New Behaviors Men's Program. Most are first-time offenders ordered by the court to enroll.

The center receives funding from the county, state and federal governments and direct contributions from individuals and corporations. But it had to turn away 230 abuse victims last year for lack of funding and space, said Diane Craig, director of volunteer services.

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