October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Posted on 10/09/2012

Between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, the Cottonwood Heights Victim Assistance Program offered services to 350 domestic violence victims in the city.  However, these numbers reflect only the incidents reported to the police department.

We believe there are many more victims in this community whose stories have not been heard. Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we want to help residents understand the signs of abuse and how to get help.

Domestic violence is a systematic pattern of abuse which occurs when one person uses violence to gain power and control over another. The pattern of abuse may consist of a combination of physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, and sexual violence. Typically, the violence escalates and becomes more frequent and/or severe over time.

Many people know or have known a victim of domestic violence.  If you suspect someone you know is being abused, there are steps you can take to help that person.

First, educate yourself to recognize the signs of abuse. Victims of domestic violence may have physical injuries such as bruises, black eyes, or broken bones. When asked about the injuries, victims sometimes minimize, deny, or make excuses about how they happened. They may wear clothing or accessories inappropriate for the weather in order to hide their injuries. It’s also possible they will show an unusual amount of depression, anxiety, fear, suicidal thoughts, or tearfulness. Victims may be forced or coerced into isolation or they may choose to isolate themselves from others.

Second, know your own boundaries. Ask yourself if stepping into the situation will put you or your family in danger. If so, consider getting a third party involved. Remember to approach victims of abuse non-judgmentally. Believe them, respect them, and let them know you are concerned. Tell them the abuse is not their fault.  Point out their strengths. Discuss safety planning.  Let them know there is help available, but do not tell them what to do. Stay in contact with the victim and maintain your support.  You can also contact your local victim advocate for further assistance.

The Cottonwood Heights Victim Assistance Program helps victims of violent crime access resources and services needed to live a life free of abuse. We provide crisis intervention, emergency financial and shelter assistance, resource and referral services, support and advocacy throughout the criminal justice system, assistance filing compensation claims, and follow up services.  Our services are available to victims who speak any language.

April Ryce is a full-time Victim Assistance Coordinator. She can be contacted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 801-944-7042 or aryce@ch.utah.gov. Alexandra Perez is a part-time Spanish-speaking victim advocate and can be reached at 801-944-7053 or by email at aperez@ch.utah.gov.

No one deserves to be abused. If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home or know someone who may be a victim of domestic violence, please contact the Cottonwood Heights Victim Assistance Program. You can also contact the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline anytime, day or night, at 1-800-897-5465.