Duncan assumes temporary role at women’s shelter

Shonda Duncan is pictured in front of Scott County's domestic violence shelter, where she is the new interim director. (Ben Garrett/IH)
Shonda Duncan is pictured in front of Scott County's domestic violence shelter, where she is the new interim director. (Ben Garrett/IH)

Shonda Ellis Duncan spent 14 years in her first career going to bat for victims, and is preparing to do the same in her second career. So, it’s only fitting that she temporarily detour into a new role as interim director of the Scott County Shelter Society, which manages the local domestic violence shelter.

Duncan, a former Oneida Police Department officer who serves on the Shelter Society’s board of directors, was tabbed to fill in, on an interim basis, after Judy Liming resigned her position as director last week. It’s actually her second time in this role; she also served as the interim director before Liming was hired.

While she is capable of fulfilling the role as long as needed, Duncan said she does not intend to be the permanent director. The Shelter Society has launched its search for a new director, though there has been no timeline placed on filling the vacancy.

In the meantime, Duncan is a natural fit for the position. She spent much of her 14-year career in law enforcement as a detective. Among other things, she handled Oneida’s domestic violence cases. She left law enforcement to further her education, pursuing a law degree. Now she’s preparing to begin her final semester in law school, and hopes to be a domestic violence prosecutor after she passes the bar.

“I’ve just always wanted to help people, for as long as I can remember,” Duncan said. “I have a heart for service. We do a lot of projects to help the homeless and the less fortunate.”

Duncan hopes her next career stop keeps her in Scott County. “I would love to practice (law) here,” she said. In the meantime, she’s still going to be advocating for victims — just temporarily, and on a different scale.

The Scott County Shelter Society provides a safe haven for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. It’s a problem that isn’t often discussed within the community — at least not openly — but it’s a problem nonetheless. As of Monday afternoon, the domestic violence shelter was at capacity. One of the tenants was a newborn baby. Four others were children.

It’s the busy time of year for the shelter. The holidays always see an uptick in victims requesting housing. The added stress of the holiday season often results in abusive spouses or partners taking out their frustrations on those closest to them. Last year, during this same time, the shelter was nearly double its capacity, setting up inflatable mattresses so victims would not have to be turned away.

“I think it’s a lot more than people realize,” Duncan said of Scott County’s domestic violence issue. “Some stuff that we don’t even think of as domestic violence and just accept as family matters really is domestic violence. For a while, we had a person a year who died from domestic violence in our community.”

As Duncan sets about her tasks as the Shelter Society’s interim director, one of the first things she wants to do is remind the public of what the shelter is about, and that there is plenty of opportunity for volunteers to pitch in.

“We want people to know that the shelter is open for community support and volunteers,” Duncan said. “People can volunteer in different aspects. They don’t have to have direct contact with victims if they don’t want to. We have all kinds of different stuff they can do.”

Duncan is part of a team that includes three full-time and two part-time staffers to keep the shelter — which is located in a secure, undisclosed location in Oneida — up and running.

“We want people to know we’re here, and we want to make people whole again,” Duncan said. “We want to help people heal. We want to be a safe place for victims and offer support any way that we can.”

Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com. Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.