The Skylark Project offers comprehensive services to incarcerated victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, a population with a high incidence of trauma and few treatment resources. Approximately 60% of female prisoners nationally experienced domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives, and administrators at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) estimate that percentage is even higher for female prisoners here in Iowa.
ICADV believes it is imperative to recognize and serve this population. The crimes committed by many incarcerated survivors are linked directly and causally to their experiences as victims of domestic and sexual violence; therefore, the Skylark Project formed to highlight and address the broad and underserved needs of survivors of domestic violence in Iowa’s prison system.
The cornerstone of the Skylark Project is commutation assistance. The project carefully screens and reviews cases to select only those where the causal link between domestic violence and the crime is clear. The women selected receive intensive support and assistance in drafting their commutation applications. We currently serve ten commutation assistance clients – less than 0.02% of the ICIW population.
The Alice Barton Scholarship Program was founded by Roxanne Conlin, her brother Raymond Barton, and her sister Rhoda Olsen, in honor of their mother Alice Barton, a survivor of domestic violence. Roxanne Conlin is a well-known Iowa trial attorney and longtime supporter of ICADV. Raymond Barton is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Great Clips, Inc. Rhoda Olsen is Great Clips CEO. Raymond Barton and Rhoda Olsen now live in the Minneapolis area but were raised in Des Moines.
Through the Alice Barton Scholarship Program, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence is awarding $1,000 scholarships to twenty-five domestic violence survivors across Iowa as well as to twenty survivors incarcerated at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville. The application is available here, or through your local domestic violence program. The scholarships may be used to pay for college classes, job training, and school supplies. A portion of the scholarship may be used to cover expenses which support the survivors’ education, such as child care or transportation.
The Alice Barton Scholarship Program works to empower survivors of domestic violence through education and job training. Economic abuse is a common and effective tactic batterers use to control their victims. Financial barriers persist even after a victim successfully leaves her abuser. By enabling victims to gain new knowledge and skills, the Alice Barton Scholarship Program helps victims increase their self-confidence, find better employment, and achieve economic independence.
Applications are judged by the answers to essay questions and awarded according to priority areas. The Alice Barton Scholarship Program funds low-income (up to 250% of poverty) survivors of domestic violence who are seeking their first college degree or technical training. In addition, priority areas include survivors who have received services from their local domestic violence program and those who have completed the Allstate Foundation’s financial literacy curriculum. Survivors are encouraged to apply, even if they do not meet the priority areas.
“I know at a deeply personal level the debilitating effect of family violence. When someone you love hurts you, it destroys trust and confidence,” said Conlin. “Education was the way out of poverty for all of us. Our family hopes that through these scholarships, in the name of our beloved mother, we can reach out to others and give them the chance to build a secure and safe future for themselves and for their families.”
Women can apply for an Alice Barton Scholarship by clicking here.
Because the majority of women in prison will someday re-enter the community, we provide services to empower women to live safely and independently, without turning to crime or unhealthy relationships. Skylark Project staff facilitate classes on healthy ways to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and past traumas. With our support, fourteen women who completed that class won scholarships funded by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Allstate Foundation, and they began taking college courses. When individual survivors prepare to return to their communities, the Skylark Project offers re-entry safety planning to help women through the vulnerable period of transition. With these skills and support, the Skylark Project has helped many women move beyond their traumatic pasts and become success stories.
Preparing to re-enter a community can be very difficult for any person, but especially for battered women. ICADV staff is happy to meet with women about to be released to create plans for re-entry and identify community resources.
Iowa 211 -Statewide Resource Database of Social Services. If you are unsure of where to call, Iowa 211 can help recommend the best resources in to meet your needs in your area. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone or visit their website.
There are several ways to get involved with Skylark. For example you can volunteer your time or offer to teach a class at the prison. You can also write letters of support or petitions for those seeking commutation assistance. If you are interested in getting involved contact the Skylark Project Director, Liz Albright Battles at 515-244-8028 ext. 326 or email@example.com