Photo: House of Grace Executive Director Sarita Drake speaks at the Purple Purse fundraiser in Southaven on Thursday, Oct. 26 (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Domestic abuse remains a serious issue that affects many individuals and families in DeSoto County and the state of Mississippi, yet there are only 11 domestic abuse shelters in the state.
One of those is operated by the House of Grace, the Southaven-based ministry, at an undisclosed location in DeSoto County.
Executive Director Sarita Drake says beyond the House of Grace, the closest shelter is located in the Tupelo area.
Mississippi has consistently ranked among the states with the highest rates of domestic abuse in the United States. This includes incidents of physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, and other forms of intimate partner violence.
In recent years, it has been estimated that around one in three women and one in four men in Mississippi will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.
“Every single day we get two to three calls from survivors of domestic violence,” Drake said. “A lot of times our shelter is full and we have to give them different resources, because we are the only shelter in DeSoto County.”
Because of the need, events like the recent Purple Purse fundraiser at the Southern Elegance event center in Southaven become especially important for the House of Grace. The name of the event, which included dinner and a program, has special significance considering the cause and the goal.
“The color purple is the color for domestic violence,” Drake said. “The purse signifies people that have been so generous to us.”
The House of Grace offers victims of domestic violence a safe location to stay and also provides guidance in working through the fear and stigmas related to it. Legal protections and services are available to victims, including restraining orders and law enforcement responses.
Part of the Purple Purse fundraiser program had the award of the House of Grace’s first Law Officer of the Year award, which went to retired officer Keith Goff“He has been so important to the House of Grace and to survivors, because was steadfast in trying to get justice for our victims,” Drake said. “Melissa DeBar was a victim of domestic violence and actually took DeBar as she was in the House of Grace shelter. Drake said she almost died at the hands of her abuser.
DeBar has a legal practice in Hernando and is on the House of Grace Board of Directors.
Another award presented at the dinner event recognized the person who started the House of Grace 25 years ago. Lorine Cady began the House of Grace and led the program until her retirement two years ago. Drake said it was important to honor Cady with a LIfetime Achievement Award.
“She heard from the Lord and was obedient,” Drake said. “We felt we needed to recognize her for that.”
“It was never my idea,” Cady said about starting the domestic violence shelter. “It was God’s idea,” noting that there has never been a case of violence taking place at the shelter.
About 200 people supported the House of Grace by their participation in the dinner, silent and live auctions, which Drake said was an “amazing turnout.”
Learn more at the House of Grace website.