Domestic violence in spotlight
Domestic violence. Unfortunately, it's out there. It's in the community - in Douglas County, in Alexandria, Miltona, Garfield, and everywhere in between.
It's men abusing women, women abusing men, men and women abusing children, partners abusing each other or children abusing their elderly parents.
The abuse encompasses not only physical abuse or violence, but verbal abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and even financial abuse.
When abuse happens - regardless of whom the victim is - Someplace Safe in Alexandria offers a variety of services. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Someplace Safe wants to share information with the community to make them more aware of domestic violence and to help put an end to the abuse.
When victims arrive at the crisis center, said Susan Keehn, an advocate at Someplace Safe, they share their story, their journey and the choices they have made - good and bad.
One of the first things offered to a victim is a personalized safety plan, said Keehn.
As part of the safety plan, victims may have to apply for an order for protection (OFP). An OFP is a court order that is designed to help protect victims from receiving any more domestic abuse. An OFP tells the abuser to stop harming or threatening a victim or a victim's children.
Victims can also apply for a harassment restraining order (HRO), said Keehn.
Both an OFP and an HRO require paperwork to be filled out by the victim, which Someplace Safe advocates can help with. The documents are then presented to the court for review, said Keehn.
One aspect of OFPs and HROs, she added, is that the guidelines for those who can apply for them are broader than people may think. It doesn't just have to be physical abuse, said Keehn. People who are being harassed or maybe have received terroristic threats are other examples of who can apply for these types of protection.
"Unfortunately, this is not black and white," said Keehn. "It's more gray."
OFPs and HROs become a priority when presented to the court and are given the utmost attention, she said. The turnaround time can vary depending on the severity of the case and other factors.
The forms for order for protection and harassment restraining orders are available to the public at the courthouse.
There are guidelines or requirements that have to be met before either can be served to a person suspected of being the abuser.
Someplace Safe, noted Keehn, is the crisis agency in the county that is available to help victims with the OFP and HRO paperwork.
"It is free and confidential," she noted.
A safety/protection plan is a means to help victims protect themselves and their children from future violence by using their own, as well as community resources.
The plan is a document that lists people victims can call for help, including friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and of course, a crisis center or outreach center/shelter.
It lists safe places victims can go to if they leave an abusive situation.
The document provides a checklist for victims of what they need to take with them if and when they leave an abusive relationship, including such items as identification, money or credit cards, medications, pictures, school records, medical records, driver's license, address book, house and car keys, Social Security cards, birth certificates, insurance papers, checkbook, taxes and more.
Safety planning, according to Keehn, "helps victims with strategies for how to handle persons who are abusive."
One of those strategies is documentation, she said. It is not always a necessity, but it is always helpful to have.
Often, when victims come into Someplace Safe, they are asked to start a journal to record the things they fear most; what fear means to them; and what types of abuse are happening - physical, emotional, financial, sexual, etc.
"Safety planning provides the education victims need to validate that they are indeed in an abusive relationship," said Keehn.
For more information, contact Someplace Safe at (320) 762-1995.
This is the first in a four-part series about domestic violence. Here are the topics and the issues of the newspaper they will appear:
Wednesday, October 7 - Safety planning, order for protections and harassing restraining orders.
Wednesday, October 14 - Strangulation and other forms of abuse.
Wednesday, October 21 - Domestic violence in rural communities and the economy.
Wednesday, October 23 - How you can help.