Domestic Violence Awareness Month close to home for local families, too

PUNXSUTAWNEY — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Jefferson County, which some people believe may not have anything to do with them or anyone they know.

That belief, though, isn't necessarily true.

"Domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or parents who share biological parenthood," said Suella Himes, counselor advocate III for the Community Action Inc. Crossroads Project.

Himes said instances of acts of domestic violence include:

• Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, spousal sexual assault or involuntary deviant sexual

intercourse with or without a deadly weapon.

• Placing another person in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

• Inflicting false imprisonment.

• Physically or sexually abusing minor children.

• Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

Himes said she asked the family members of a woman who died from an instance of domestic violence several years ago and wanted to share a portion of their story to illustrate the worse case scenario.

"I'm telling my story to help others who are in a domestic violence relationship," said Jenny, the mother whose daughter died.

Himes said Jenny is telling her daughter's story because her daughter no longer has a voice.

The Spirit has chosen not to identify the victim and her family by listing their last names.

"In just minutes, your life can be destroyed," Jenny said. "It happened to us on Jan. 9, 2005; it was the day our daughter celebrated her 37th birthday." she said.

"At about 10 p.m., there was a knock on the door, and there stood two police officers and a neighbor," Jenny said, adding that she couldn't figure out what was happening.

"They made me sit down to tell me our daughter was killed by her abusive husband," she said.

Jenny said her situation was an instance of domestic violence, and in case one is not sure what to look out for, there are warning signs:
jealousy, one individual wanting to know where the other is every minute they're not together and being controlling.

"There was verbal abuse as much as physical abuse and attempting to keep her away from other family members; these are all signs of abuse," Jenny said.

She said after her daughter's death, they had to endure several days of a homicide trial, which was very difficult to go through.

Jenny said if people are in an abusive relationship, they should get out before it goes this far.

"There's always outside help if you find yourself in this position," she said. "It not only hurts the person in the relationship; it also hurts family and friends," she said.

Himes said there is a power and control wheel, which often can lead to physical and sexual violence.

This includes:
• Using coercion and threats — Making and or carrying out threats to do something to hurt an individual.

• Using intimidation — Making a person afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying his or her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons, etc.

• Using emotional abuse — Putting a person down and making him or her feel bad.

• Using isolation — Controlling what an individual does or who the person sees and talks to.

• Minimizing, denying and blaming — Making light of the abuse and not taking the person's concerns about it seriously.

• Using children — Making a person feel guilty about the children or using the children to relay messages.

• Using male privilege — Treating a woman like a servant, making all the big decisions and acting like the "master of the castle."

• Using economic abuse — Preventing a person from getting or keeping a job and making him or her ask for money.

Himes said if someone has a loved one who is hurting, he or she can call Crossroads at 1-800-598-3998.

Crossroads provides 24-hour assistance for victims of domestic violence in Clearfield and Jefferson counties.