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Rachel Holder, executive director of The Alliance, and Janine Stovall, a licensed victim advocate, presented information and led a discussion about domestic violence at the Salida City Council work session, Monday, Nov. 5.

Holder said Councilman Dan Shore was instrumental in setting up the discussion “to facilitate some community awareness and provide you guys with some education around domestic violence.”

Stovall thanked council for the opportunity to address the topic. “I really appreciate it. It shows how open-minded you are … to help the community with this issue.”

Stovall set the stage for her presentation by screening part of a video, “First Impressions … Exposure to Violence and a Child’s Developing Brain,” which demonstrates how severely domestic violence impacts cognitive development in infants and toddlers.

Information and personal experiences presented in the video demonstrated that, the younger the child, the more exposure to domestic violence affects them, with the fear created by psychological violence having an incredibly detrimental effect on very young children.

For a local perspective, Stovall said The Alliance had 187 new clients, 111 continuing clients, 200 crisis calls and a total of 1,444 contacts in 2016. With almost two months remaining in 2018, year-to date numbers have already reached 197 for new clients, 264 for continuing clients, 315 for crisis calls and 1,316 total contacts – significant numbers in a county with a population of less than 20,000.

In defining domestic violence, Stovall noted the importance of differentiating between “expressive violence” and “instrumental violence.”

Expressive violence is used “to express frustration, emotional pain, etc.,” said Stovall. “Instrumental violence is premeditated and motive-driven. In intimate relationships this motive is generally to obtain power and control over the abused partner.

“It is not about love.”

Domestic violence, she said, is “a pattern of behaviors used to establish power and control over an intimate partner through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. ‘Pattern of behaviors,’ that’s the key. …

“It can happen to anyone,” regardless of income, social standing, religion, race or educational level. “Men are victims as well.”

As part of her presentation, Stovall led council members through an exercise in identifying various type of abuse, including:

• Emotional and verbal abuse.
• Intimidation and threats.
• Isolation and extreme jealousy.
• Denying, minimizing and blaming.
• Using children.
• Sexism.
• Financial and economic abuse.
• Sexual coercion.

“A lot of survivors don’t even know they’re being abused,” said Stovall, acknowledging that a common question in domestic violence situations is, “Why does she stay?

“My question is, ‘Why do abusers abuse?’ … Do you believe that social norms allow it?”

Councilman Justin Critelli. Responded, “Actively not doing something about it is allowing.”

“Yes,” Stovall asserted. “Silence hides the violence.”

Recognizing the significance of this issue in Chaffee County, The Alliance has established the following free and confidential services:

• Crisis intervention.
• Peer counseling.
• Court watch.
• Safe housing.
• Women and children support group.
• Financial assistance.
• Safety planning.
• Referrals and resources.
• Children’s program.
• Sexual assault crisis advocacy.
• Sexual assualt peer counseling.
• 24-hour call or text support.
• Housing program.
• Lawyers for victims program.

“It’s in the city’s interests to ensure that you are a successful organization,” said Mayor P.T. Wood.

“Validating the experience of people who have experienced trauma through your actions as leaders is going to go a long ways in our efforts for prevention,” said Holder. “How do we promote social change to actually stop the violence from happening in the first place?”