By Kimberly FritzSeptember 29, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 29, 2011) -- Each October, communities across the nation observe National Domestic Violence Awareness Month - but the work of advocates is never ending.
Fort Lee's Family Advocacy and Empowerment Program personnel work to educate military members and their families about domestic violence and to eradicate it all year long.
Michelle King, senior legal assistant at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, specializes in domestic violence cases. King has never been abused. Her mother wasn't so lucky. She was a victim of domestic abuse for years and taught her daughters from the time they were very young what they needed to know to be empowered.
"I am the daughter and granddaughter of survivors," King said. "My mother was abused by my father when I was little and my grandmother was abused by my grandfather. One day my mom decided not to let us experience what she had, so she defended herself against the abuse."
King doesn't remember the event, but often heard the story of the day her mother became empowered.
"He began to beat her in the kitchen," she said. "She picked up a cast-iron skillet and hit him. He jumped out of a second story window and ran away. It seems comical now, but nothing about abuse is funny."
When King began working, she was drawn to the legal community and took a job as a receptionist. Then, when federal funding broadened the scope of the society's work, King began working with the domestic violence department as a legal aid and as an advocate.
"Educating women and men about what to do before, during and after domestic abuse is so important," King said. "Knowing where to go to get help is the first step."
Sometimes people don't think what they are experiencing is abuse, said Terri R. Ceaser, victim advocate coordinator.
"It's important to know what domestic violence is so you are prepared if it ever happens to you," she said.
Being frightened of your partner's temper or feeling like you are walking on eggshells could indicate domestic abuse. Making decisions about activities and friends according to what your partner wants or how your partner will react may be abuse. Being hit, kicked, slapped, punched or pushed is domestic violence and ACS is here to help.
"The Army is committed to ensuring victims of domestic abuse are protected," Ceaser said. "We offer unrestricted (which allows an official investigation) and restricted reporting (which does not initiate the investigative process). We have victim advocates on staff to provide immediate support to the victim and address his or her interest and safety. We are here to help."
The family advocacy program offers empowerment services like safety planning, assistance in obtaining protective orders, coordination of emergency services, accompanying clients to court proceedings and appointments, as well as referrals to other agencies on and off post that offer assistance.
During DVAM, FAP is hosting several troop runs, a community action alliance with guest speaker Mildred Muhammad, a silent witness display and other events.
King knows how important being educated and prepared is - it saved her from being the third generation of battered women in her family, and she wants to help victims now do the same for their children.
For more information about programs available on Fort Lee, contact (804) 734-6391. To contact a victim advocate, call 734-6378 or 734-7083.