Advocates help those in crisis

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There's a right question and a wrong question when discussing abuse.

The wrong question, said Pat Tessmer, director of the Avocate-Crisis Support Services, is: Why do abuse victims put up with it?

Tessmer said the the right question should be: Why do abusers do it?

"When you ask the right question, the answer is simple ---- power and control," she said.

That question is key to ending the cycle of abuse and addressing all of the underlying issues, she said.

Another frequently asked question is: Why do women stay in abusive situations? Tessmer said that in a lot of cases, the victim has too much to lose.

"Some women have no income. They may lose their home and their children, and the fear of not being able to take care of them makes it easier to just stay," she said.

Many times, the victims are also emotionally beaten down and have self-esteem problems.

"It is difficult to for victims to see a better life," she said.

There are no easy answers, Tessmer said, and domestic violence is a crime that crosses all socio-economic boundaries.

"I cannot find any common denominator. I've even looked at weather patterns and moon cycles," she said. "It still is about having power and control over another person."

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Advocates-Crisis Support Services will hold a candlelight vigil at the courthouse at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23. U.S. Senate candidate Ken Salazar will be the guest speaker.

According to Tessmer, a key to stopping the cycle of abuse is recognizing it. A huge part of the agency's services revolves around sharing information and education.

Beginning in seventh grade, students are taught the signs of physical and emotional abuse and where to get help.

But assisting domestic abuse victims is not all that Advocates is about.

"Our focus is broader than the abused and battered," she said. "We are here to support people in crisis situations,."

Tessmer said the agency has four programs under its umbrella: Moffat County Victim Assistance, Sexual Assault Victim Assistance, Latino Outreach and teen peer counseling.

She said MCVA and SAVA work closely with law enforcement and are called to respond when an officer asks for assistance.

"Victim assistance is not always domestic abuse," she said. "For instance, we might be called to an accident."

She said in that case, several volunteers might respond for one incident.

"One may go to the scene, another to the hospital," she said.

She said volunteers are required to take 40 hours of training before becoming volunteers. Volunteers spend about 2,500 hours a month in Moffat County assisting victims and those in crisis. One full-time and four part-time staff members are paid.

"Everyone else is a volunteer," she said.

One of the most effective programs here has been the peer counseling program. Teens become volunteers and help educate other teens about the facts of abuse.

"It is rewarding to see some of these teens choose this work as a career and to see others come back as adults to be advocates," she said.

As one of the United Way agencies, Advocates almost is solely dependent upon donations and volunteers to function. Its only form of state funding is the income tax check-off.

For a short time, domestic abuse was a line item on the state's annual budget. But during the last few years, it became one of the cuts.

"We are feeling the effects of TABOR and the Colorado's budget crisis," she said.

Questions about Advocates-- Crisis Support Services should be directed to Pat Tessmer at 824-9709.

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