Hard times have brought harder realities to many homes throughout the Wood River Valley. New numbers from The Advocates, a domestic violence counseling and resource center, show that such incidents have jumped over last year.
"We have more clients than ever disclosing situations about abuse and domestic violence," said Trisha Tobias, the organization's community education coordinator. "It is the effect of the current state of the economy. Tensions are high and people are out of work."
The Advocates report a dramatic increase in walk-ins, phone calls and food needs in this year's first quarter, January through March, in comparison to the same time period in 2008. Last year, 805 people were recorded as walk-ins; this year, 1,840 people walked through the doors.
"People are shocked," said Tobias. "When we are doing training sessions, participants are amazed at the statistics."
Phone calls to the Advocates amounted to 1,907 in the first quarter last year and 2,134 this year. In addition, last year 100 people came in for food needs and this year 303 people came in for food assistance.
"We are getting a lot of people coming to us in crisis with their relationships and asking questions on what to do," Tobias said. "I have had more people than ever tell me they have had passive or active thoughts on suicide."
Tobias said passive thoughts on suicide include clients saying they wouldn't kill themselves, but wouldn't mind if they died in a car wreck or just not woke up. She said that since the beginning of the year, the number of conversations of that type has been increasing.
"People are being laid off and cannot afford utilities or food," Tobias said. "People have been cut off from creditors, are in deep debt and they are not working. They don't know what to do."
April is national Sexual Assault Prevention Month, and The Advocates have planned a weekend of activities to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate people on how to prevent sexual violence. The organization will offer a free self-defense class on Friday, April 24, at the Community Campus in Hailey and will host a Carbonate Hill Climb in Hailey on Saturday, April 25.
The Advocates was formed in 1991 by four women, Char Roth, Julie Caldwell, Cally Huttar and Vicky Starr, who saw a need for domestic violence services for women and who took action to support a young local woman who was being sexually abused by her brother. The group dedicated themselves to ending physical and emotional violence in the lives of battered families in Blaine County through education, shelter and supportive services.
Since 1991, The Advocates have started a 24-hour hotline staffed by 21 volunteers, built a shelter, created an endowment, opened the Advocates' Attic, a new and used retail store for women and children, started mentoring programs and have maintained a staff of over 30 people.
"The self defense class has been very successful," said Client Services Coordinator Carol Pintler. "It encourages talking about self defense with teens, and it opens up a conversation about being safe and taking care of yourself, as well as prevention for the community."
Pintler said the self defense class has taught young women in the valley to be proactive and learn skills and develop an awareness to protect themselves. The Advocates' first climb up Carbonate will have a registration fee and prizes, but there is no pressure to compete if participants would like to climb at their own pace.
Sabina Dana Plasse: email@example.com
Friday, April 24, 6-8 p.m.
· Free self defense class at the Community Campus in Hailey. To register, call 788-4191.
Saturday, April 25, 11 a.m.
· Advocates Carbonate Hill Climb in support of Sexual Assault Prevention Month at Hop Porter Park in Hailey. Race day registration from 10-10:45 a.m. Race starts at 11 a.m. and BBQ begins at 12 p.m. Race entries are $20 adults, $10 students 18 and under. BBQ is $5 per person. For details, call 788-4191.
· Registration forms available at Sturtevants in Hailey and Ketchum.