We want people to know we exist before they need us,” said Jaime Pieschke, Healing Opportunity Provided Equally (HOPE) advocate.
Do you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence? Chances are that you do.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in three women and one in four men experience some form of domestic violence by an intimate partner in the United States during their lifetime and according to the NCADV, one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, religion or gender. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
“It takes a village, it takes a community,” said Darla Blegen, legal advocate for HOPE. Domestic violence is everybody’s business. Pieschke addressed the importance of respecting others’ individual rights, “‘No.’ is a complete sentence. As a society and a community, we must hold a higher standard. No means no.”
Dating violence, intimate partner violence and relationship violence all fall under the umbrella term domestic violence. Domestic violence can come in several different forms: physical, verbal, sexual, psychological, emotional, stalking and harassment to name a few. Domestic violence is any behavior inflicted on the victim intending to cause some sort of harm and/or fear of harm for the purpose of having power and control over the victim. And often, it happens behind closed doors.
Nicole Hammond was killed in St. Cloud after repeatedly rejecting a co-worker’s advances. Hammond graduated from Aitkin High School in 2012 (see “She said no… in the Nov. 9 Aitkin Age). “I knew Nikki, my heart goes out to them (her family and friends),” said Blegen.
She was the object of Michael Jordan Carpenter’s unrequited “affection.” Carpenter, 36, St. Cloud, was charged with murder in the second degree for the shooting death of Hammond.
When asked if anything could have been done differently in Hammond’s situation, Pieschke asked, “How do they (potential victims) address that? At work, could she have reported that? Is there an HR policy for violence in the workplace? Not all workplaces have that. Not all people feel comfortable reporting that, out of fear of retaliation or a number of other things in the workplace.” Blegen added, “Also, a lot of people don’t take it seriously.”
“Each (domestic violence) situation is different and complex with many things to consider,” said Pieschke. Blegen continued, “One of the things we take a lot of pride in here (at HOPE) is, when we have a client that comes here, we believe them, we listen, we take their fear seriously. What happened to Nikki is the ultimate, worst thing that we are trying to avoid.”
Pieschke said, even if people tell others about the harassment, intimidation, manipulation, people may not know they need help, that help is available or it may be difficult to ask for help. “Being asked out repeatedly may not seem like a big deal to some people,” she said. “But when it becomes aggressive and they’re not hearing the ‘no,’ that’s a red flag. That’s a problem. The thing we need to learn in our society is how to hear ‘no’ and respect that. It’s to be respected and accepted.” Blegen added, “The bottom line is, all we have to say is no. You don’t have to explain why, the answer is no.”
“Educational trainings on domestic violence attended by the advocates encourages people to be “thinking about it more like abuse – coercion, manipulation, force, harassment, intimidation – these are the things that we see more often than the physical and sexual abuse,” said Pieschke. The advocates expressed concern that domestic violence is understood by some to mean only physical and sexual violence. “These (coercion, manipulation, harassment, etc.,) are some of the things that lead up to that (physical and sexual violence),” added Blegen.
Hammond was the 18th confirmed victim of something called “intimate partner” homicide in Minnesota this year according to Violence Free Minnesota (VFM). The CDC website www.cdc.gov said, “Intimate partner violence is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. Webster defines intimate as closely acquainted or associated, intimate partner violence incorporates all intimate relationships and the violence that may occur within them.
“It doesn’t matter what you wear. It doesn’t matter if you flirted. It doesn’t matter if you said yes to the date. A no at any point is a no,” said Pieschke. “You have the right to change your mind at any point. Period.”
“This is not the victim’s problem, this is the abuser’s problem. We need more male role models to speak up and say that this is not OK,” agreed the advocates.
“We are very aware that women abuse men too,” explained Pieschke. “It’s hard for men to come through our doors and come forward. The difference is, usually when a woman is abused by the man, there is a greater fear because of the power differential. In the other direction, men are not as fearful of imminent harm or fear for their life when a woman is being physical.” The type of fear and the level of fear is different for these victims. Pieschke said, “Treat others as THEY want to be treated.” Blegen went on, “Typically society views an abused man as ‘not a man’ and that is so wrong. They can be victims too and they need the support. No means no for them too.”
“If you hear someone saying no and you see that someone else is not accepting that answer, can you intervene?” asked Pieschke. “Be that model and support for something different and something healthy. If they speak to you about fears and/or concerns, hear them. By hearing them and believing them, you are helping to support them.” Blegen added, “Don’t minimize the abuse, the victim is not at fault.”
Children can also be victims of domestic abuse. An example would be an 11-year-old child being called names, yelled at, physically hurt, etc. by a sibling. Minors are welcome to talk to HOPE advocates with a level of confidentiality although it is preferred that a parent/guardian would be in attendance if that is a safe option.
Some advocates attended “Danger Assessment Training” recently with information provided by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell. This training helps to determine the level of danger an abused person has of being killed by an intimate partner. Pieschke spoke about some things learned at the training session, “So much of a person is static, meaning it’s difficult to change, it’s there.” Pieschke said one of the things Campbell said at the session was,” The more serious the abuse, the less likely they are a person who will change.”
Abusers don’t have a particular type or “look,” therefore it can be difficult to avoid them. There are signs of destructive abuse behavior to watch for (see red flags).
Pieschke has been holding presentations at area schools to educate and promote healthy relationships and provide information regarding dating violence.
The CDC said strategies to promote healthy, respectful and nonviolent relationships are an important part of prevention. “Programs that teach young people healthy relationship skills such as communication, effectively managing feelings, and problem-solving can prevent violence.” These skills can stop violence in relationships before it occurs.
HOPE collaborates with the community. Presentations are not only held at area schools but other events, organizations and churches. “Community support is vital,” said Pieschke.
There are weekly support groups for women at the Aitkin County Jail, community support groups for women, and teen support groups facilitated by HOPE advocates. Some of the groups can be attended via Zoom.
“We need to not only educate people about how to be safe in situations but we need to educate people that violence is not the answer to anything,” said the advocates.
• The inability to accept a “no” answer
• Putting you down/calling you names
• If you feel you are “walking on eggshells”
• Controlling finances
• Grabbing, shoving, slapping - physical harm
• Making you feel afraid
• Property destruction
• Pressuring you to have sex
• Keeping you from your friends/family
• Controlling where you go and who you talk to
IS REHABILITATION POSSIBLE?
Rehabilitation may be possible with accountability, commitment and hard work. Blegen said, “With any change, you have to admit you have a problem first.”
“It’s challenging to create change,” said Pieschke. There are rehabilitation programs available to assist an abuser with getting treatment and learn healthier ways of behaving in relationships. “There are classes to help abusers understand the effect their abuse has on their partners, their children and their families, but they have to be open to hearing it,” said Blegen.
Rehabilitation is possible with commitment and hard work. A person’s social environment can also impact possible rehabilitation. If you are not subjected to healthy relationships, it can be difficult to make healthy changes. “Change comes from establishing new habits, new behaviors demonstrated and maintained over time,” explained Pieschke.
HOPE advocates attended “Danger Assessment Training” recently with information provided by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell. This training helps to determine the level of danger an abused person has of being killed by an intimate partner. According to an annual study by the Violence Policy Center (www.vpc.org), of the more than 2,000 female homicides by males in 2020, 89% knew the offender, the homicide occurred during an argument and a firearm was the most common weapon used by the male offender.
Pieschke spoke about some things learned at the training session regarding the likelihood of rehabilitation, “So much of a person is static, meaning it’s difficult to change, it’s there.” Pieschke said one of the things Campbell said at the session was, “The more serious the abuse, the less likely they are to be a person who will change.”
Blegen said, “It doesn’t’ change the fact that Nicole is dead. That’s where the judicial system really needs to hold these people accountable before they commit murder.” If perpetrators are held accountable on the first offense, they are less likely to re-offend according to information advocates received at a domestic violence training last year.
Is it an anger issue? Is that when violence people lose control? “Then why don’t they lose control on their boss? Why don’t they lose control on the police officer?” asked Blegen. “Its because they respect their authority, they don’t respect their spouse/partners’. It’s not an anger issue, they actually have a lot of control over it. Its an entitlement and lack of respect issue.”
“We want people to know we exist before they need us,” said Pieschke. “We don’t talk them into doing anything that they don’t want to do. We work with them with whatever they want. We are a safe space.” The advocates specified that any abuse is significant enough to reach out for help. “We will meet with anyone and help them through, there is no threshold of seriousness,” said Pieschke.
HOPE is not only for Aitkin County residents although about 90% of the people assisted are from Aitkin County area, “We will help anyone anywhere,” Pieschke. “If we can assist, we will,” added Blegen.
Megan Cummings, executive director HOPE, provided some HOPE statistics for 2021:
• Provided domestic violence victim services to 480 people (219 adults, 261 children)
•Provided safe housing to 33 people (16 adults, 17 children)
•Helped seven families relocate to permanent housing
• Distributed 1,173 sources of emergency financial assistance directly to clients
• 150 crisis line calls
• 6,494 contacts with clients for victim services
HOPE currently has a team of four staff members and 27 volunteers.
The group’s mission is to end violence and provide safety through direct services, education and advocacy to all people experiencing domestic violence.
HOPE has a vision of the local community partnering to meet the needs of all people experiencing domestic violence. Volunteers are needed for crisis line advocates, repair services, landscaping, office cleaning and special projects. Those wanting to help in other ways can donate. HOPE is in need of gift cards for grocery, gas and retail; new unopened packages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, paper towels, shampoo and conditioner and personal care/feminine hygiene products.
Services provided by HOPE are free and confidential. There are legal advocates to assist with orders for protection, restraining orders, attending court proceedings, assisting with filing reports. Other services for victims include: advocate availability 24/7, listening and support, developing a safety plan, housing resources, support groups, explanation of options/choices and community education seminars.
Contact HOPE by calling 218-927-2327 or the 24/7 crisis line at 888-276-1720, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The group can also be found on Facebook and more information is available on its website at www.aitkinhope.org.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 and TTY 800-787-3224.
Love Is Respect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474 or TTY 866-331-8453.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673) to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. Visit rainn.org to chat one-on-one with a trained RAINN support specialist, any time 24/7.