October Domestic Violence Awareness month

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“Denial in Moffat County is huge. People don’t think it happens in this county. It’s the same with sexual assault.”

— Carol Romero-Crossman, youth services coordinator for Advocates Crisis Support Services, about domestic violence in Moffat County

October plays host to many important issues facing the community, with much coverage for breast cancer awareness.

But October is also domestic violence awareness month, and at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26, Advocates Crisis Support Services of Craig will hold a walk for awareness.

Beginning in City Park and ending in at the courthouse with a presentation from a guest speaker who survived domestic violence, Carol Romero-Crossman, youth services coordinator at ACSS, said the walk is to increase awareness about domestic violence in the community.

“Denial in Moffat County is huge,” Romero-Crossman said. “People don’t think it happens in this county. It’s the same with sexual assault.”

Romero-Crossman added denial is the worst thing for this type of issue, saying it could be happening next door and no one would know.

But Romero-Crossman said the number of people they assist each year is alarming, and goes up by about 50-100 people each year.

So far this year she said they had assisted 620 people. This includes primary and secondary victims such as children and relatives of the primary victim.

“Our numbers keep growing. Maybe it’s because of the education that’s getting out there, or maybe individuals are coming around and noticing that advocates exist,” Romero-Crossman said.

The color for domestic violence awareness month is purple, and Romero-Crossman said they would have a banner that says “No Excuse for Abuse,” at the walk. Romero-Crossman said last year’s walk was a huge success and the agency is trying to make the walk an annual event.

This year’s speaker will also give a presentation on what domestic violence means to her in a conference room inside the courthouse.

Some of the services offered by ACSS are a 24-hour hotline, with crisis counseling available over the phone or on site. ACSS workers respond to domestic violence call requests from dispatch and to the scene or emergency room.

ACSS also offers individuals up to 45 days in a shelter, where a victim can receive help learning to live away from the abuse.

“We do a lot of guiding them to begin living a life of self sufficiency. We give them ideas for jobs and housing,” Romero-Crossman said. “We normally talk with and counsel them on a daily basis, along with track what they’re doing, so they can look back and say, ‘wow I did all this.’ It gives them a sense of self-confidence. A lot of women don’t remember how to see that.”

ACSS also helps children of domestic violence victims develop safety plans so they feel more secure if a situation arises.

Romero-Crossman said getting the education piece out in the open is crucial to combating domestic violence.

“The more we educate, the more these generations are going to be able to understand what’s been around for generations,” Romero-Crossman said.

Romero-Crossman teaches a group of teens at the high school in a class called, Stopping Abuse Forever, and said teen dating violence often predicts ending up as a victim or perpetrator later in life.

Romero-Crossman said one of the most difficult aspects of her job is seeing a woman return to a violent situation. But sadly she knows the statistics, a woman in a domestic violence situation will leave up to seven times and go back, with the seventh time turning out to be the most scary and dangerous time for that individual.

“At that time the abuser has completely lost control, they have nothing left to lose. The abuse could escalate to homicide, and has in a lot of cases,” Romero-Crossman said.

She said victims return to their abusers for a number of reasons, a main one being the oppression they’ve endured over years.

“Sometimes it’s been an abusive relationship from day one that’s gone on for years. They’ve gotten more oppressed, never worked, don’t know how to balance a checkbook. They stay home, take care of the kids, clean and cook,” Romero-Crossman said.

She said victims often think their abusers will change, but as an advocate she said she knows it is unlikely they will. She added abusers had often learned the behavior from someone in their lives or growing up.

“Whether they choose to act on that behavior is another issue. You have the choice to hit someone or walk away,” Romero-Crossman said. “So far as the individual changing, it doesn’t happen very often.”

She compared an abusers behavior to throwing a fishing pole in the water and luring victims in with their charm and attention. Treating a victim really well. She added once the abuser’s hooked the victim, that’s when the abusive behavior generally begins.

Romero-Crossman said one story sticks with her all the time.

She told the story of a woman who was able to come in for help because her husband was at work. The woman had come to get a restraining order but told Romero-Crossman, “If I do this, he will kill me.”

Romero-Crossman said her story followed the fishing example exactly.

“He romanticized her, he was wonderful while dating. He asked her to marry him and she said yes,” Romero-Crossman said. “And on their wedding day he told her, ‘If you ever leave me I will kill you.’

"That was the end of her nice relationship, nice love, nice anything was over at that point.”

Romero-Crossman said the woman lived right next door to her parents throughout the duration of her eight years with her abuser and they never knew.

“A lot of these women don’t want to leave their husbands. They love their husbands, they just want the abuse to stop,” Romero-Crossman said. “That’s it, I love you, I want to be with you and have your children, I just want the abuse to stop.”

Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or dwarden@craigdailypress.com

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