By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
In an effort to help address a serious issue within the local community, the Los Alamos Police Department has obtained a grant and contracted with a part-time victim advocate to assist crime victims.
In this role, the advocate (name withheld due to sensitive nature of work) is helping victims find refuge and pursue legal action against their abusers. The advocate also is providing emotional support and assistance in finding resources and completing necessary paperwork.
When assistance is needed, the advocate also goes to court with the victim, helps with safety/safer planning, victim compensation applications, intervenes with employers on behalf of victims, helps find shelter and transportation, and assists with funeral arrangements and any other needed services.
“Domestic and family violence, sexual assault, rape dating violence, sex trafficking – these issues affect the whole community and can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, education, income level or social background,” the new advocate said. “It’s important that the victims know they are not alone … that there is help and there is hope.”
In many cases of domestic violence, the victim keeps the abuse a secret – unwilling to tell anyone – even close friends and family.
“They are afraid and ashamed to let anyone know about intimate family problems,” the advocate explained. “Victims of domestic violence come from all walks of life, cultures, ages and income groups. If left unchecked, this type of violence can affect the entire family, destroy self-esteem, and usually escalates into serious physical harm. I urge anyone who is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking or any violence or knows of a victim to seek help immediately.”
In an effort to protect victims against potential retaliation by their abuser, the new advocate asked the Los Alamos Daily Post to withhold any identifying information related to victims such as gender, age and street name from being published in the weekly police blotter. The Los Alamos Daily Post will honor that request.
According to the Department of Justice, domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound someone.
Domestic Violence is not just a one-time incident, but a pattern of behaviors over time. Most abusive relationships follow a cycle of violence, which has four stages: normal, tension builds, explosive incident (which may or may not include physical violence) and the honeymoon stage. The lengths of each stage can vary from seconds to years. During the Tension Building Phase, the warning signs of abuse begin to appear. They may repeat, they may change each time, but they are there.
During the Honeymoon Phase the abuser tries to justify or minimize the abuse. They may treat the victim with extreme kindness as they try to “make up” for the attack and try to keep the victim from fleeing. The abuser may also try to make the victim feel responsible for the abuse, so they will not blame the abuser or press charges.
As a cycle, the phases repeat themselves: after the honeymoon stage, the tension eventually starts building again, which leads to another explosive incident. Over time, the tension building phase takes less time to lead to the explosion, which becomes more violent and dangerous, and the honeymoon stage becomes shorter and shorter.
Local resources for victims within 30 miles of Los Alamos County include immediate police response, immediate sheltering for battered persons and families, 24-hour crisis hotlines, counseling, support groups, intervention and other programs for survivors and offenders, safety planning, legal counseling, advocacy, medical treatment referrals and education.
In an emergency, always dial 911. For non-emergency information and referral services, call the Victim Advocate at 505.709.0729 or 505.663.3511, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Additional information about local services is available from Self Help, Inc. at 505.662.4666 or visit selfhelpla.org or call 211 at 505.
662.6211 or visit 211nnm.org.