CEDAR CITY — October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and women’s shelters, crisis centers and domestic violence survivors are speaking out to help raise awareness and education about the signs and signals indicating a dangerous situation.
Domestic violence is important for communities to acknowledge because domestic violence can be prevented, Cindy Baldwin, executive director of Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center in Cedar City, said.
“Domestic violence is not something without a cure, it is a learned behavior,” Baldwin said. “Through education, prevention and raising awareness, I truly believe that we can minimize it in our communities.”
The CCWCC first began as an emergency shelter, giving refuge to those who needed immediate help, Baldwin said. It has since grown to not only include shelter, but also to provide support groups, community education and a mobile crisis team.
CCWCC is not the only Southern Utah outlet offing these services. The Dove Center in St. George offers similar options to men and women suffering from the effects of domestic violence.
The Dove Center is where Tracy — whose name has been changed in this article to protect her privacy and ensure her safety — said she found help after she fled from her husband after years of abuse.
Throughout 28 years of marriage, Tracy said, her husband began to progress in his abuse. It started with controlling where she was going and who she was talking to, and escalated into verbal abuse. At one point she could hardly go a day without being called stupid or worthless.
“There were many days waking up and looking down the hall and asking myself, ‘what kind of day will this be?’” Tracy said.
The abuse did take a physical form as time went on, Tracy said. While her husband never hit or punched her, he would often shove her, throw things and threaten to shoot her.
Eventually, Tracy said, she could not take it anymore, and she made a plan to flee from her husband. One night when things were getting bad, she decided enough was enough.
“… I left my (ex-husband) after a very volatile evening,” Tracy said. “I have never looked back.”
Once out of the danger zone, Tracy said some of her friends and family were not as supportive about her situation as she had hoped. Their actions and words only seemed to pull her down more until she found help in a different way.
This, Tracy said, was when she found her saving grace.
“A family member phoned me one day and said to look into a women’s shelter in my state, so that is how I found the Dove Center,” Tracy said. “I was unaware of their existence before then.”
Tracy began attending group therapy sessions with other survivors in the area – a decision that, she said, has benefited her in many ways.
“Group-therapy saved my sanity,” Tracy said. “… In group you are not judged.”
Tracy has since moved on to not only attending these group sessions, but also offering her time to better help others going through similar problems. Tracy said she has done this by volunteering as a victims advocate for hospital calls and assisting the Dove Center in any other way she can.
“My legacy is to always express hope to victims at their worse time of grief,” Tracy said. “If you give them hope then you may succeed in moving them forward to continue being productive people in the world.”
Raising awareness, education and prevention
Domestic violence is something that affects society as a whole, Georgia Thompson, interim director of the Center for Women and Families at Southern Utah University, said. People sometimes don’t want to admit how real the problem can be.
“People often like to think (domestic violence) is something that happens to a faraway person,” Thompson said, “but this is something that happens in this community.”
Often times, violence isn’t something that is constant, Thompson said. A relationship can have periods of violence and then transition into a “honeymoon phase” where the aggressor apologizes over and over, promising to never hurt them again.
“The victim of abuse often thinks this phase will last,” Thompson said. “It’s something they hold on to because it is something they can live with.”
Domestic violence relationships are usually all about control, Thompson said. Red flags in a relationship can be monitoring of phone calls, restriction of funds and the isolation of the victim from friends and family.
It is important to know that domestic violence may not always be something easily identified, Tracy said. Often times, abuse can go on for years and no one could have any idea.
“A victim could be anyone,” Tracy said. “My closest friends never knew what I was going through. It could be happening right next door.”
According to documents provided by CCWCC, the center assisted a total of 812 clients in its 2014 fiscal year. This included 93 women given refuge at the adult shelter and 88 children at the children’s shelter.
Education in domestic violence is not only for adults, but can be for children as well, Baldwin said. One of the programs currently in place through CCWCC helps educate high school students about the importance of healthy relationships.
Starting this education young is important, Baldwin said, because it can help both girls and boys learn what a healthy relationship looks like. This can help combat any negative relationship aspects these youth may have previously thought to be normal.
“Statistically, children are much more likely to become victims or perpetrators if they grow up in a home that is exposed to domestic violence,” Baldwin said. “That’s why a big part of our mission is to raise prevention and awareness.”
A child who has witnessed violence occur at such a level where it seems normal may begin to think acting out with violence is alright, Thompson said. This can create a cycle where generation after generation thinks that this is acceptable behavior.
Thompson also said events such as those during Domestic Violence Awareness Month can help raise awareness and educate those who may not know
On Saturday, Thompson said, Cedar City community members would attend the Take a Step Against Domestic Violence event. The event began at 9 a.m. with a walk, beginning at the Bicentennial skate park and end at the Piute Tribe Building at 440 North Paiute Drive.
Following the walk, lunch will be provided and Donna Kelly, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Research Presenter with the Attorney Generals Office, will give a presentation on domestic violence and how it can be identified and prevented. All are welcome to attend.
Options for those experiencing domestic violence
Emergency shelter, Baldwin said, is offered to women and children who may be at risk and who need immediate housing. These individuals can stay in the shelter for up to 90 days. Men who may need a similar service can call CCWCC for assistance.
A newer addition to the center is the 24-hour mobile crisis team, Baldwin said. This team not only works with individuals over the phone, but also responds to the scene of domestic violence along with authorities.
“They also respond to the hospital to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Baldwin said. “There is a lot of correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault, so we are a dual agency.”
Like the support groups Tracy attended at the Dove Center, CCWCC also provides free group-support sessions that are open for the community to attend free of charge. More information on both the Dove Center and CCWCC group sessions can be obtained by contacting the centers.
If a person comes to you saying they have suffered from domestic violence, Tracy said, it is important to show your support to them.
“If anyone has a victim approach them for help the best advice is to listen and direct them to their nearest shelter for professional help,” Tracy said. “No matter how many times the victim may return to their abuser. Never shut the doors on a victim.”
More information on the services available to survivors of domestic violence and those currently suffering from it can contact the centers directly. In an immediately dangerous emergency situation, call 911 for help.
- Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center | Office Telephone: 435-867-9411; Crisis Line: 435-233-5732
- Dove Center | Office Telephone: 435-628-1204; Crisis line: 435-628-0458
- Washington County East Side Victims Advocate | Telephone: 435-668-7581
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