Commissioners recognize domestic abuse issues at latest meeting

BROOKVILLE — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Jefferson County, the county commissioners declared at their meeting on Tuesday.

Suella Himes, counselor advocate III with the Community Action Crossroads Project, appeared before the commission to speak about the issue of domestic abuse in Jefferson County.

“Domestic violence is really all about power and control,” she said. “You have an individual who loves someone, but they just don’t understand why this individual that they love is hurting them.”

She added, “The key is getting the word out through opportunities such as this ... They need to know there are programs out there that can support them.”

The Crossroads Project is a branch of Community Action set aside for the purpose of aiding domestic abuse victims and their families.

“We provide emergency shelter and a 24-hour hotline service,” Himes said. “We do safety planning with individuals, as well as counseling and legal advocacy. We have a school prevention program. And, of course, we have a volunteer program, and we’re always doing ongoing training.”
They also provide a lot of educational services in the community, teaching people about aspects like the “battering personality” or the cycle of domestic abuse.

The project currently has a staff of 11, consisting of full-time and part-time employees.

“We’re really relying on volunteers, because we do still continue to answer our hotlines directly ... So a victim always talks to someone and doesn’t have to leave a message anywhere,” Himes said.

She also distributed packets of information to the commissioners and others in attendance at the meeting. The informational materials contained within constituted a sample of the items the Crossroads Project distributes to victims and their families to help them and make them aware of their options for escape.

One of them was a small pamphlet roughly the size of a credit card, easily hidden by victims who can’t have it out where their abusers might see.

She also displayed a harassment pamphlets for individuals in situations that might not qualify as domestic abuse, informing them of their own options.

There was also a booklet that serves as a guide for the friends and family members of abusers and/or their victims.

Himes also included the 2011 homicide report with regard to domestic abuse, due to recent events in the local area.

“We’re not in this edition,” she said. “But next year, we will be. We started off the month of September with a murder-suicide, which actually touched my family. That was my children’s great aunt who passed away.”
She added, “You talk about domestic violence, and you think just about the people who are being abused, but this is a family issue. It touches family members on both sides, victims and abusers, because everybody gets hurt in this process.”

Himes also reminded the commissioners of the recent case of Judy Sprankle, who was recently sentenced in the attempted shooting of her husband.

The project doesn’t just deal with the problem of physical abuse either. It also aids victims of severe mental or emotional abuse.

“The verbal abuse victims will tell you it cuts much deeper ... I’ve had victims in the past say they’d rather take a beating than endure the emotional and mental abuse,” Himes said.

She also indicated that, based on the annual statistics, there is domestic violence in Jefferson County. In the last year, the Crossroad Project served 857 adults and 269 children.

“This is a family problem,” Himes said. “Everybody knows somebody. Maybe it’s your mother, your sister, your aunt ... It could be a co-worker, or it could be a fellow student ... In one way or another, we’re all touched by it.”

“It’s a tough issue that needs to be addressed,” Commission Chairman Paul Corbin said. “Thank you for your efforts in that regard.”

In other business:

• The commissioners approved invoices in the amount of $884,204.79 for the period of Sept. 11 through Sept. 25 inclusive.

• The commissioners approved pending invoices in the amount of $442,820.21.

• The commissioners approved the actual gross payroll in the amount of $201,021.78 for payment for the period of Sept. 9 through Sept. 22 inclusive.

• The commissioners approved the tentative gross payroll in the amount of $201,000 for payment for the period of Sept. 23 through Oct. 6 inclusive.

• The commissioners approved a motion to inform the governing body of the county’s expected obligation for 2013 with the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System in the amount of $449,987. This action will satisfy the legal requirements of Act 205.

• The commissioners tabled a motion to adopt the holiday schedules for all county employees.

All county offices will be closed on Monday, Oct. 8 in observance of Columbus Day.

The next meeting of the county commission will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 10 in Jefferson Place in Brookville — a change in date from the regularly scheduled day.