The silhouettes on the Routt County Courthouse lawn serve as a reminder that domestic violence can affect anyone. October is domestic violence awareness month.

Photo by Matt Stensland

The silhouettes on the Routt County Courthouse lawn serve as a reminder that domestic violence can affect anyone. October is domestic violence awareness month.

Group pushes for domestic violence awareness

Advocates sponsors lunch, discussion about helping those affected by abuse

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If you go

What: "It Stops With Us: Learn how to support family, friends and co-workers" brown-bag lunch and panel discussion

When: Noon Oct. 26

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center conference room

Bring: A brown bag lunch; dessert and drinks will be provided

Call: Advocates Building Peaceful Communities at 879-2034

National statistics

- One in four women will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime.

- An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of assault by an intimate partner every year.

- Almost one-third of female homicide victims reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.

- Intimate partner violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health care visits each year.

- There are 16,800 homicides and $2.2 million (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence annually, which costs $37 billion.

- Less than one-fifth of victims reporting an injury from intimate partner violence sought medical treatment after the injury.

- Domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes.

- Nearly 2.2 million people called a domestic violence crisis or hot line in 2004 to escape crisis situations, seek advice or assist someone they thought might be a victim.

- Studies suggest that 3.3 million to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

- Forty percent of girls ages 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.

- Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

- Statistics provided by Advocates Building Peaceful Communities

Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Children Now/Kaiser Permanente poll

— Dawn Cunningham knew there was a problem when her daughter started calling her, crying on the other end of the telephone.

The Steamboat Springs resident said it was years before she and her husband, John, knew their daughter was in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage. Cunningham said domestic violence used to be treated with shame and was merely "swept under the rug."

That's not the case anymore, she said.

Across the country, October is being recognized as domestic violence awareness month, to promote the services and education available to victims and their friends and family, to honor the survivors and to remember those who lost their lives.

Domestic violence is a problem not only in Steamboat, but also across Routt County, said Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, which provides counseling, shelter and other resources for local victims of domestic abuse.

Last year, Advocates served 320 victims, and Moore estimated that the number of nights spent in its nine-bed shelter tripled. At one point, she said, it was full, and Advocates was placing families in motels and condos. Nationally, one in four women will experience domestic violence in an intimate relationship in her lifetime.

"This month is a way of getting the word out," she said. "There are resources in the community."

Although Cunningham's daughter always has lived in the Midwest, Cunningham and her husband used resources provided by Advocates to assist their daughter, she said.

They received guidance and attended counseling to learn how to help their daughter. It was not only difficult for them, Cunningham said, but especially troubling for her three grandchildren.

Cunningham said her grandchildren were torn between loyalty to their father and wanting to support their mother.

"They were not really allowed to be children," she said. "They were always worried about mom. The oldest daughter became parental, a caretaker."

Cunningham said she and her husband also struggled with wanting to rescue their daughter instead of letting her ask for help or make her own decisions. She said that was probably the most difficult thing.

"It's like every mother with a child," she said. "You want them to be safe, secure, happy."

Cunningham said her daughter now has been divorced for four years. If she had to do it again, Cunningham said she would have done a few things differently. She offered advice for people whose friends or family suffer from domestic abuse.

- Believe them.

- Let them ask for help.

- Ask what kind of help they need but leave the control in their hands to "empower them."

- Make sure children understand it's not their fault.

- Don't take sides.

- Be there for support.

Cunningham said after so many years, her family is still coping.

"It's a never-ending thing," she said.

The economy is complicating matters this year, said Sgt. Rich Brown, who works with Advocates as the domestic violence liaison officer for the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

"Anytime the economy is struggling and people have added stress in their lives, it tends to increase incidences of domestic violence," he said.

Brown said his perception was that the department had responded in the past year to more calls, had responded to more serious calls of domestic violence, was conducting more wellness checks, had made more alcohol-related arrests and was responding to other incidents that may be expected when people are struggling financially.

He said all of those things were indicative of economic stresses and struggles people have on a daily basis.

"It does really affect us all, and those effects are highlighted in times like these, when people are worried about making ends meet and all those other stresses," Brown said.

The silhouettes on the Routt County Courthouse lawn serve as a reminder that domestic violence can affect anyone, Moore said.

She said domestic violence occurs across all boundaries, and it doesn't matter if someone is male, female or a child. Religious views, financial status and sexual orientation don't matter either, she said.

Although the perception of domestic violence in society has changed throughout the years, Moore said the number of people affected by it is significant.

"It's still very much a part of our families and relationships," she said. "I think the shame and stigma is a lot less, which is critical. We still have a lot of work to do."

Advocates will host a brown bag lunch and panel discuss entitled "It Stops With Us: Learn how to support family, friends and co-workers" at noon Oct. 26 at Yampa Valley Medical Center. Moore said the panel discussion would include herself, Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates, and Trish Sullivan, vice president of human resources for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Moore said the discussion would provide support for people who know someone affected by domestic violence. It will include ideas, support and information about resources.

Call Advocates at 879-2034 for more information about the brown-bag lunch and panel discussion or with questions about resources related to domestic violence.

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