Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Focus on social change, not the victims


    The Advocates provides services to victims of domestic violence and has for 23 years. We were founded in support of a young local woman who in desperation shot and wounded her brother who was sexually abusing her. Our founders believed that services should be available to people being abused so that they are not driven to take matters in their own hands. The Advocates continues this legacy of support to victims and today provides many services including shelter, safety planning, support groups, counseling, court advocacy, legal assistance, case management, job and life skills training, and more.
    Prevention is also strategic priority of The Advocates and we provide education on how to build and maintain healthy relationships. Staff also trains students and community members on how to recognize acts of power-based personal violence (domestic, dating and sexual violence, and stalking, bullying and harassment). We teach bystander intervention strategies so that people are equipped to safely intervene and stop these forms of violence.

How the criminal justice system handles domestic violence across the country should be explored and questioned.

    If anyone in our community thinks these problems don’t exist in our community, they do. The Advocates receives over 100 requests for assistance or information every day. Students, teachers and community members polled during our presentations report that 60-70 percent of them have had an act of power-based personal violence committed against them personally. In addition, 93-100 percent of those polled know someone who has had an act of power-based personal violence committed against them.
    The Advocates, when providing services to victims of relationship and/or sexual violence, is victim-centered and focuses on providing services that they request. We do not tell them what they should do and/or judge why they are doing or not doing what we think they should do. We are here for them regardless of whether they are ready to leave an abusive relationship or not.
    Although we may not understand why Janey Rice is staying, we need to leave her alone and focus on Ray Rice and the violence that we tolerate in sports and our society in general. The question that should be asked is why do perpetrators of domestic violence get counseling or small fines as a punishment versus something of more substance and consequence. How the criminal justice system handles domestic violence across the country should be explored and questioned and changed. We ask that our community focus on social change and not the victims.
    This is what will lead us in the direction of creating a compassionate community free from emotional and physical abuse.

    Tricia Swartling is the executive director of The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, based in Hailey. The organization can be reached at 788-4191.

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