A community forum was hosted last night (Monday) to help the public become better aware of the services provided by Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services.
2006-07 Miss Sunnyside Taylor Gardner addressed those in attendance to state that the Miss Sunnyside Court has been helping the crisis center during her reign. The court's purpose in helping the center is to inform the community of domestic violence issues in the Lower Valley.
A counselor from the center, Rosalinda Alvarez, informed the attendees that the center's purpose is to handle crisis calls from victims living from Benton City to White Swan. She said the center also provides counseling and support.
"We do have counseling for the perpetrator, also," said Alvarez.
Each of the counselors in attendance expanded Alvarez's statement by stating their roles at the center.
Counselor Anna Trevino told the audience that a protection order can be obtained by the victim of domestic violence or anyone who might feel threatened by a relative or someone whom they have a relationship with, as long as the person seeking the protection order is 16-years-old or older.
"Protection orders are obtained in Yakima Superior Court. They speak to a judge and obtain a temporary order. Two weeks later a permanent order can be obtained," she stated.
Trevino said it is important that the victim provide all pertinent information for the protection order.
She further explained that domestic violence is not just physical abuse. "It can be emotional or verbal abuse, as well," she stated.
An audience member inquired of the counselors as to the nature of reporting domestic violence, saying she was concerned about a neighbor or friend.
The counselors told her she could refer the victim to Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services so that the victim could obtain a protection order and support.
Another audience member asked about the differences between a no-contact order and a protection order.
The counselors informed her that a no-contact order is issued by police officers at the scene of domestic violence and only keeps the abuser from contacting the person or persons who were victimized until a trial is held.
"A protection order can protect both the victim and the children," said counselor Mary Mion.
Someone inquired about the removal of a protection order, and the counselors advised that a class must be taken by the victim to remove the order. The class, according to the counselors, would inform the victim regarding the dangers of removing the protection order, but also how it could be removed.
"There are several kinds of orders," said Mion. "There are anti-harassment and sexual assault orders as well as the order to keep the perpetrator from contacting the victim."
Mion also informed the audience about the damaging effects of domestic violence on children.
She said children are often the "silent victims." Highlighting that a child might act out, have nightmares, wet the bed and discontinue thriving, she noted some children don't exhibit the effects until later in life. "They may become abusive when they are dating," she stated.
Yet, some children don't exhibit effects until after they are married, according to Mion.
The counselors told the audience that police officers in the community refer a victim to the center. The officers hand out business cards and often make a follow-up contact with the victim if she or he has not contacted the center after a certain period of time.
An audience member asked what the consequences are if a child assaulted an adult, and the counselors said the same consequences apply in such circumstances.
Most of the counseling services provided by Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services are one-on-one because some victims need to be discreet about their visits. Often the victim has a need to meet at a certain time to keep from being questioned or detected by their abuser, according to Mion.
An audience member also asked about marital rape.
The counselors informed those in attendance that marital rape is classified by the victim telling the spouse no. "But the law says force has to be used," said Ricki Tebaldi, the executive director of Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services.
Mion concluded the evening with a list of what the center has done, stating, "We have shared what we do, but this is what we have done."
She encouraged the audience to refer others to the center if abuse is suspected, "...because we are here for anyone needing help."