Carey Roberts column
Florida abuse shelter scandal
January 28, 2009
"It was really terrible what I went through." These were the first words that Yvonne Scott blurted out, even though the incident happened more than five years ago.
One morning a social worker and policeman showed up on the woman's doorstep. "Either you come with us to the abuse shelter or we take away your children," was their grim-faced ultimatum. Scott had been previously involved in an abusive relationship, but there was no current threat to Ms. Scott or any of her three children.
One might expect such an encounter to occur in the former Soviet Union or maybe a Latin America banana republic. But in the sunshine-addled state of Florida?
Scott had no choice but to hastily strap the kids into her car and follow the Child and Protective Services worker. They ended up at a domestic violence shelter in LaBelle, a few miles east of Fort Meyers in central Florida. The shelter is one of three operated by Abuse Counseling and Treatment (ACT). According to its website, the organization provides a "circle of support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault." [www.actabuse.com]
But instead of a caring circle, Scott found herself confined to the four walls of a house in an isolated part of town. To her dismay, she and her children were the only residents at the facility. The shelter had three staff members, but they were out and about holding consciousness-raising sessions, attending conferences, and the like. "They ignored me and my children," Scott recounts. And when she pleaded to take her kids ages 6, 8, and 9 to a nearby park, the staff berated her.
The biggest problem, though, was no one available to mind the place during the night shift. And shelter workers fretted Scott might try to escape. Her gas gauge rested on empty, but still, she might grab her kids and walk away in the dead of night. That wouldn't look good to potential donors.
The solution? Lock the house from the outside and activate the alarm. "I felt we were in a prison," Scott's tearfully recalls.
Three weeks later her daughter's disability check came in. Yvonne Scott could finally afford gas money to escape her captors. But not so fast, first she had to wash all the linens and blankets. That should teach her a lesson.
Six months I ago I began a series of articles detailing the horrific events going on at the abuse shelters in Florida.
At the Naples Shelter for Abused Women and Children, director Kathy Catino was forced out after staff complained she ruled the place with an iron fist and pressured subordinates how to vote. Then a security camera caught her grabbing an employee — that's known as battery.
At SafeSpace in Stuart, 16-month-old Myliak Dale was run over in the shelter parking lot and Millie Almore was fatally stabbed by another resident, all within a two week period. An investigation concluded the Almore tragedy was caused by the "egregious failure of the entire agency to satisfactorily assure the health, safety, and welfare of both its clientele and staff.
A deranged woman kidnapped a two-month-old baby, hopped in her car, and decided to take refuge — but where? Well, why not at the Hubbard House in Jacksonville? It's the perfect place — they believe anything you say and the police know abuse shelters are a no-man's land. Fortunately, the woman was apprended three weeks later.
At Another Way in Lake City, mischief and mahem are the order of the day. There staff with criminal records are hired, shelter assets misappropriated, training documents falsified, drug use condoned, and shelter employees callously mistreated. Most troubling is the child abuse taking place within shelter walls: a 4-year-old girl sexually assaulted by another shelter resident, a boy confined inside a sweltering van, children left to fend for themselves while their moms toke weed, and much more.
One Another Way employee recounted, "Around November or December 2007, a man came into the office. He was crying, and his arms were bruised, seeking assistance." The intake worker "took him into her [manager's] office. Then to my amazement I heard her tell him that Another Way doesn't provide services or assistance for men."
Twice I have called on readers to alert the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence to this gross violation of the public trust. But the Coalition refuses to acknowledge the problem. Maybe that's because the head of the FCADV Executive Committee is Donna Fagan. Fagan also serves as the director of Another Way.
Remember, sisterhood is powerful.
Maybe it's time to take this to the top-we all need to bring this travesty to the attention of Florida governor Charlie Crist. His email address is Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com .
Gov. Crist needs to know that domestic violence shelters are turning into abuse penitentiaries.
Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism.Mr. Roberts' work has been cited on the Rush Limbaugh show. Besides serving as a regular contributor to RenewAmerica.us, he has published in The Washington Times, LewRockwell.com, ifeminists.net, Men's News Daily, eco.freedom.org, The Federal Observer, Opinion Editorials, and The Right Report.Previously, he served on active duty in the Army, was a professor of psychology, and was a citizen-lobbyist in the US Congress. In his spare time he admires Norman Rockwell paintings, collects antiques, and is an avid soccer fan. He now works as an independent researcher and consultant.