Officials stand to end violence in the home, provide haven for abuse victims
Friday, September 20th, 2013
Issue 38, Volume 17.
Domestic violence or intimate partner violence is defined as, "Physical, sexual, or psychological harm (to a person) by a current or former partner or spouse," according to the Center for Disease Control.
Violence affects very many Americans. According to a 2010 report from the center, nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced such violence. Thatís why in Riverside County, officials have been working toward comprehensive solutions to help at-risk victims.
A few streets over from the Temecula Police Departmentís Auld Road location stands the Southwest Family Justice Center, an unassuming facility thatís
giving victims of domestic violence a second chance to clean their slates and find a new chance at freedom.
The facility has been working with law enforcement and other organizations for a number of years to form individualized strategies for people who have become caught in abusive personal relationships.
Abuse victims who come to the center are interviewed and walked through options for leaving their abuser, but this can pose a stressful challenge for many victims who remain scared and unsure of how to proceed.
But not all is lost, however; the Family Justice Center utilizes advocates to help abuse victims through their situations.
Itís through the work of advocates like Colleen Hughes that these individuals can at least depend on a source of moral support and a confidant who can help them through what can be a very trying and difficult time.
Hughes has been working hand in hand with Southwest Station investigators as well as the justice center to find men and women who might need to escape abusive relationships. She works on procuring restraining orders and working on the exact steps of a plan to help people leave their situations, but also works hard to be a friend to those that need one.
"As an advocate, I am confidential, so Iím pretty much a hand holder and just an encourager," Hughes said. "Thatís pretty much what I do."
But advocacy is only one part of what is often a two-pronged approach. Investigators like
Detective Rachael Frost work to file police reports and hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their actions.
Frost is one of two domestic abuse investigators for Southwest Station and one of many in the county.
According to Frost, there are two detectives per almost every investigational bureau in the county, an organizational model that was conceived following Riverside County Sheriffís
Departmentís receipt of a grant.
"The grant that weíre on is the California Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement
Specialized Unit Grant, which is a mouthful; we just call it
CAL-OES," said Frost. "Itís actually a three-year grant and with it, we developed a plan throughout Riverside County that trains two investigators."
During her time as a detective for the Southwest Station, Frost has been involved with a variety of domestic violence cases and has seen a number of unique and informal trends.
The detective said that while women are predominantly the victims in instances of domestic violence, she has noticed an
increased number of men reporting that they are victims of domestic violence, too. She has also seen frequent cases of strangulation as well as the breaking of cell
phones and other technological devices in many instances of domestic violence relationships.
However, Frost cautioned that itís difficult to really define trends within the context of domestic violence relationships because reports arenít necessarily indicative of the actual amount of violence that occurred within a relationship. Just because something is reported, doesnít mean it hasnít been happening for a great length of time, she said.
"Ifwe donít ask the right questions weíre not going to get the right answers," she said. "Often times when weíre finally called to an incident, it might be the 20th one. We need to find out what the history is and what else has been going on at home."
Frost said that many individuals may feel confused by why a victim of domestic violence might stay with the person that is violent toward them for such a long time, but explained that there are a number of reasons why such a thing might happen. She said that one of the primary factors in long-lasting domestic violence relationships is that the victim is scared to leave for fear of bodily injury or death.
Another reason that victims stay is that they share children with their abuser. However, staying in a domestic violence relationship under this pretense can be a costly mistake, according to Frost.
"The kids know whatís going on. Kids always know whatís going on," she said. "Kids see and hear things we think they never see and here. And they are affected by domestic violence in very lasting ways."
"Children of domestic violence households are very likely to grow up and become victims of domestic violence themselves or perpetrators of domestic violence because they find it to be normal or a part of their childhood," she added.
Lastly, victims may be scared to leave their abuser and move to a facility when they have limited resources and limited support from friends or family. In instances where this is the case, it can be very hard to convince victims that theyíre doing the right thing for themselves by transitioning, according to Frost.
Thatís why advocates like Hughes often take what some might consider a tough course of action by being brutally
honest with victims about the difficulties they might encounter if they leave their spouses or significant others.
"You have to be honest," she said. "You canít say, ĎYou know what, everything is going to be great. Itís all going to be OK.í because thatís a lie. Itís going to be hell for them."
"Theyíre leaving their home, theyíre leaving their car, theyíre leaving their beautiful things they have in their homes and theyíre taking their kids out of that," she said.
However, in spite of the difficulty of such an undertaking as leaving a violent relationship, there are options readily available for people who tackle the task head-on, according to Hughes.
She helps people willing to take this route to draw out a plan and takes them through the steps of where to put personal items and how to get ready so that when itís "time to jump," or leave their situation, victims will actually be able to.
Sometimes the worst instances of violence occur when a victimís spouse or significant other learns the victim is leaving them,
according to Frost and Hughes.
Thatís why for Riverside County law enforcement officials like Frost, threat assessment and management are extremely important. The detective said that itís always important to be able to identify potential instances of violence and stop them before they occur. She said thatís why the Riverside County Sheriffís Department will start to do this on a larger scale by implementing a threat assessment task force within the next several months.
Investigator Frost reminded the public that abuse is a problem and that no one should allow themselves to be subjected to it.
"Itís not anybodyís right to abuse you, especially somebody who is supposed to love you more than anybody else in the entire world except maybe for your child," she said. "That kind of behavior isnít acceptable and isnít normal and isnít routine. Regardless of what culture anyone of
us is from in the world, we shouldnít expect that kind of treatment from anyone, nor should we accept it."
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