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DVSAC leader to appear on TV’s Dr. Phil

A local leader on domestic violence issues will be in the national spotlight Wednesday when she appears on the “Dr. Phil” television show.

The episode on “Abusive Exes” is part of a campaign launched by TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw to “end the silence on domestic violence.” It will feature Niko Johnson, executive director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition in Grass Valley.

The “Dr. Phil” segment airs at 3 p.m. on KOVR Channel 13, or at 7 p.m. on KMAX Channel 31, on Wednesday, Oct. 27.



When the coalition was asked to appear on the show to talk about shelter services and the closure of its domestic violence shelter in western Nevada County, it was an opportunity it could not pass up.

An Associated Press article on the coalition that appeared in August helped draw attention to its budget woes, Johnson said.




The group’s shelter, which maintained a staff of three and beds for 12 at a cost of more than $60,000 a year, closed in June as it awaited a late state budget. But concerned community members stepped in to fill the gap, offering beds and rooms in their own homes to help house clients on an emergency basis.

In addition, the nonprofit group Women of Worth took over the house where the DVSAC shelter operated and reopened it on July 31 as Hetty’s Haven, a short- and long-term transitional home. (WOW also provides emergency sheltering as needed and as space is available, founder Sandy Schmidt said.)

“The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence called DVSAC because we know intimately how challenging it is for survivors to escape an abusive relationship,” Johnson said. “Having a safe, confidential, staffed emergency shelter serves survivors and our community best. Having had to close the shelter was devastating.”

Wednesday’s show is dedicated to the issue of separation abuse, Johnson said; the most dangerous time for a survivor of domestic violence is when she take steps to leave the abusive relationship.

“Shelters play a key role during this dangerous time,” she said. “Without the safety and support, many victims will choose to stay in abusive relationships, rather then face homelessness.”

The show was filmed earlier this month and also featured several survivors from other parts of the country, Johnson said.

During the show, McGraw presented the coalition with a $15,000 check to help open an emergency shelter.

“It was very cool,” Johnson said. “I was overwhelmed. I could not believe the generosity and willingness to help our community.”

‘Sustainable’ program

When the coalition closed its shelter this summer, Johnson had said she did not anticipate re-opening it. But now the state budget has passed, with the funds for shelters having been reinstated.

“We realized we were getting those funds back, so we’re planning on opening a small shelter that we can sustain while we pursue our ultimate goal of owning a facility,” Johnson said. “We will have less beds, probably about five or six beds, something we can sustain (financially). We’re in the process of looking for a house to lease.”

The coalition’s facility is intended to be an emergency shelter for 30 to 60 days, Johnson said. Coalition members work “very closely” with Women of Worth, she added.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.


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