By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderOctober 6, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C., Oct. 6, 2011 -- According to the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, rape crisis centers across the state served more than 5,000 victims in 2010. And of those, 74 percent knew their attacker.
Tuesday, Fort Jackson's Family Advocacy Program staff members are hoping to shine a light on domestic violence in hopes that prevention awareness will help reduce those numbers.
A half-day of activities in recognition of Prevention of Domestic Abuse Community Awareness Day will begin with a Walk Against Domestic Abuse at 8:30 a.m., followed by guest speakers from the Family Advocacy Program, the state Attorney General's Office and the Department of Social Services. A domestic violence survivor will also speak.
This year's theme is: "Together we can end domestic abuse -- act now."
"The main thing is to promote education and awareness," said Kimika Louis, one of the Family Advocacy Program's victim advocates.
The day's seminars will highlight the differences between reporting procedures for military and civilian agencies, as well as the resources available for victims of domestic violence.
Fort Jackson's victim advocates say that it is important for everyone, not just victims, to attend the day's events so that commanders, co-workers, friends and loved ones know how to help those who may be in need.
For example, said Kamala Henley, another victim advocate, "Commanders need to understand the dynamic of what the victim is going through. The victim often feels that the (military) is on the Soldier's side."
That's one reason Fort Jackson's victim advocates make clear what resources are available on post so that victims know that help is available, regardless of a military member's affiliation or rank.
"If they call at three o'clock in the morning, we can get them to a shelter right away," Louis said.
Louis and her fellow victim advocates said that another part of awareness is removing the stigma that sometimes surrounds reporting domestic abuse. The team also stresses to victims that it is up to them whether they stay, or leave, an abusive relationship. It is also up to the victim whether the victim advocates report the abuse to a Soldier's chain of command or not. Often, said Louis, this is one of the victim's first chances to make such a decision."
"We give them the freedom to stay (or not). If they decide to go back, that's fine. We let them know, "Here's a safety plan. We're here for you. Whatever decision you make, whatever way you want to go," said Shenitha Shiver.
Louis added, "Giving that victim the option to choose is the most important thing."
The victim advocates provide those who seek help with a safety plan that includes information on what to do in a potentially dangerous situation and also provides instructions on how to leave an abusive relationship. They also provide victims with a bag they can quickly take with them if they need to leave quickly.
The advocates suggest that victims keep the bag, which should include such essentials as passports, identification cards, children's birth certificates, school transcripts and medications, with a trusted friend or family member.
All the victim advocates stressed that a victim's first priority should be the safety of themselves and any children.
"It's not about being a snitch. It's about safety," Shiver said.
MORE TO KNOW
Domestic violence prevention experts say that often, the most dangerous time for victims is when they attempt to leave their abusers. Here are a few tips and resources for those who may be in, or is attempting to leave, an abusive relationship.
Know the red flags. Abuse may not always begin as physical abuse. Some red flags include: using coercion and threats; using intimidation; using isolation (controlling access to military I.D. card, family and friends); using children (refusing to help with the children, threatening to hurt them); using economic abuse (not sharing pay records, preventing financial independence); claiming military/male privilege; minimizing, denying and blaming ("It's your fault); using emotional abuse.
Have a plan in place for leaving. Do not leave in the heat of the moment. That could provoke the abuser. Be sure that you, and any children involved, leave during a time in which it is most safe.
Also, make sure you have a safe place to stay, preferably in a place that the abuser does not know about that can offer adequate protection.
Have a bag packed. Be sure that your bag includes: a change of clothes, cash, extra keys and copies of important documents. Leave the bag with a trusted friend and family member.
Know your options. Those affiliated with the military have the option to seek help from the Family Advocacy Program victim advocates and can choose restricted and unrestricted reporting. Restricted reporting allows for victims to seek help, but the Soldier (if the Soldier is the abuser) will not have his or her actions reported to his or her chain of command. The restricted reporting officials are: sexual assault response coordinator, unit victim advocate, chaplain or health care provider. No investigation will be initiated.
With unrestricted reporting, the Criminal Investigation Division and the Soldier's chain of command will become involved and, if necessary, can initiate a non-contact order or house the Soldier in an alternate location, such as the barracks. An investigation will be initiated. Civilian victims will be referred to the appropriate resources for advocacy and assistance.
If you are involved in an abusive relationship, or if you know someone who may be, contact the Family Advocacy Program Office at 751-6325 to discuss your options. The victim advocates can offer resources and provide help with off-post services, such as protection orders.
If you are in a dangerous situation, call 911.
Sistercare, a local program that offers services and shelter for battered women and children, and Fort Jackson victim advocates are available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sister Care Crisis Line: 765-9428
Victim advocates hotline: 429-4870