01 01 kid abuse crayon drawingThe month of October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month to bring attention to the continued prevalence in the community and highlight resources and information available to victims and those trying to help them.

About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience intimate partner physical violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Taking a closer look, about 43.9% of women and 19.3% of men in North Carolina experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

“We have seen an increase in calls not only in our county but in surrounding counties and out of state, all domestic violence shelters are filling up and staying at capacity,” Amy White, program director for Care Center Family Violence Program said. “As a result of COVID-19, many shelters to include the Care Center have had to reduce our capacity to be able to promote social distancing and keep everyone safe from not only domestic violence but from the virus too.”

Cumberland County has a high volume of domestic violence cases, and most cases are referred to them by Child Protective Services, law enforcement, hospitals, and a lot of self-referrals, White said.

“Our call volumes are pretty close to pre-pandemic numbers, but our crisis calls have increased from the short time-frame,” she said.

County Resources

The Care Center functions under the Cumberland County Department of Social Services to provide domestic violence counselling and education to both victims and abusers, as well as a safe house in the event that a victim and their children need to flee from an abusive situation.

White said the center offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, women and children support groups, as well as outreach to educate the community on domestic violence. The Center also has a victim advocacy program offering guidance in the legal system such as how to obtain domestic violence protective orders, with a victim advocate that can accompany the victim to court to be a support system.

The Care Center offers support groups in English and Spanish for women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

Another available resource at the Care Center is the ‘Resolve Batter Treatment Program’ for abusers who attend a 26-week intensive class to be educated about domestic violence and it costs $175 dollars, she said.

The Care Center sees the victim and the abuser separately and has three Human Services Clinical Counselors that are assigned either to the victim or the abuser. The counselors provide a domestic violence assessment (series of questions) to determine how much counseling the victim and the abuser would benefit from. Once the determination is made of how many sessions are needed, the victim and the abuser will begin counseling sessions.

“During the sessions, our counselors focus on educating customers on what is domestic violence, how to avoid domestic violence, and provide coping skills to decrease the possibility of reoffending and victimization,” White said.

We don’t allow them to graduate or get certificates because we don't know if they reoffend or not, but focus on providing the indication they need. Often times the abusers that enter the program are court-ordered to attend or are on probation, she said.

The Care Center is the only domestic violence shelter in the county that offers stay at an undisclosed location where victims are escorted in by Fayetteville Police.

“If someone calls in to get immediate shelter, we assess them to find out if they need emergency shelter, do they have any other family that they can go to and if they don’t then we accept them into the shelter,” White said.

The shelter connects victims with legal aid, medicine and clothing among other needs.

Fort Bragg Resources

Fort Bragg’s Family Advocacy Program has eight victim advocates and a 24-hour hotline said Tom Hill, program manager at Family Advocacy which falls under Army Community Services.

The program focuses on prevention but also provides advocates for victims of
partner abuse.

“The one thing we do have to tell them if an advocate is talking to them is that ‘hey if you bring up that you have been abused by your spouse or partner or child has been neglected, then the Family Advocacy Program kicks in which is mandatory,’ and there’s a review board that goes over each case,” he said.

Hill said if victims aren’t ready to give their names yet and want to be anonymous, the program will help them as much as they can.

Hill said that when working with soldiers, advocates remind them that there are rules of engagement in a combat zone and rules of engagement when they’re at home too.

“Say a wife catches her husband cheating on her, she maybe punches him or something and a lot of us would do that but rules of engagement, you can't let your feelings get the better of you and not strike out,” Hill said. “Folks really need to know that this program will kick in if you have lost your temper and abused a spouse or a child.”

The Family Advocacy Program will inform the service members command within 24 hours of a reported case.

The Army offers a variety of rehabilitation efforts and corrective behavior programs, Hill said. All reports of abuse are taken very seriously, he said. A repetitive offense may lead to a discharge from service.

“If a person has had time to get treatment done and has a second case of abuse then they are considered for a chapter or discharge but they do try very hard to rehabilitate,” Hill said. “The most difficult is to get dependents who are perpetrators into treatment.”

When family members are the victims, they are often hesitant to report abuse because of the instability it would cause to the family if the spouse were discharged from the military. Hill said when a person is thinking about leaving their spouse they might have to completely start over with housing, finances, job, and FAP has many resources that can help with that process.

“So [the Army] created a program called ‘Transitional Compensation’ where if a dependent comes forward and says I am being abused and their partner gets kicked out of the military, or incarcerated they will still be eligible for pay, medical and dental insurance and PX and Commissary privileges for up to three years after,” Hill said.

The FAP works with the courthouse to provide a person a domestic violence protective order electronically by meeting the judge online at Fort Bragg. The program works closely with shelters in Hoke, Cumberland and Moore
counties.

Signs of healthy versus unhealthy relationships

White said part of the Care Center’s responsibility is to educate both victims and abusers of what a healthy relationship looks like.

“The main important part of a healthy relationship is communication, you must be able to express your thoughts and feelings, bottling your emotions often results in an explosion and increases the risk of domestic violence,”
she said.

Other important factors of a healthy relationship include trust, being a good support system for one another and having time to yourself.

“Being together 24/7 is not healthy in a relationship, it is important to be able to have time apart and do things you enjoy doing,” White said. “The saying is true about absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

White said other signs of an unhealthy or unsafe relationship can be if the partner wants to move in after two weeks of meeting, if they become easily jealous, checking your whereabouts or your phone, throwing things when they get angry, calling you names or belittling you, making you feel like it’s your fault that they hit you.

“If you spot these early in your relationships, then you need to get out as quickly as possible. The longer you stay, the worse the abuse becomes,” she said.

Hill said the Care Center works with cases every week that involve other forms of abuse. “Some are emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse by controlling the money, or holding onto a person's ID cards and such,” she said.

COVID-19

“COVID-19 and the pandemic absolutely has affected the hotline, we have seen an increase in the number of calls,” White said. “They are cooped up together, they don't have an outlet, this seems to have increased the hostility in the home, so we have seen a major increase in calls.”

Fort Bragg hasn't seen an increase in cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill said, noting that The Army Times released an article that said the Army overall has seen less cases during
the pandemic.

“But it's still worrisome to know that there’s still folks out there that could be cooped up with an abuser and we really have to get the word out,” Hill said.

Be an ally

If you see someone who has suspicious bruises, or if you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, give them the Care Center Crisis Line which is 910-677-2532.

White advised it is up to that victim or the abuser to seek out help, and it is important for the community to know that sometimes all you can do is provide them with resources that can help.

“Be a listening ear, let them know you are there for them. It usually takes up to 7 times before a victim finally leaves their abuser,” she said. “Often, when we have a friend who might be in an abusive relationship, we are quick to tell them to leave - do not do this. It is up to that victim to decide when they feel comfortable to leave, it is their decision.”

She said there could be several reasons a person may not be leaving a relationship some of them being financial, fear of life and safety, no place to stay.

The Care Center is always in need of donations for things like hygiene items, women’s products, clothes, diapers in different sizes for kids, twin bed sheets and comforters. To help call 910-677-2528 and the Care Center will provide a list of immediate donation needs.

Although the Care Center has been around for 41 years, many people are not aware of it, White said.

“We just want them to know that we are here for them, and if they know someone out in the community that experienced domestic violence to provide them with our contact,” she said.

Available Resources
Local area resources for victims of domestic abuse are listed below:
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office
Non-emergency 910-323-1500
Victim assistance 910-677-5454 or https://ccsonc.org/
Cumberland County Family Court
910-475-3015 or https://www.nccourts.gov/locations/cumberland-county
Safe-Link Domestic Violence Assistance Program
910-475-3029, Cumberland County Courthouse Room 340, 3rd floor
Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office
910-475-3010

Fayetteville Police Department
910-433-1529; Victim Assistance 910-433-1849 or
bethebadge.com
The CARE Center Family Violence Program
Crisis Line 910-677-2532 or office 910-677-2528
•Legal Aid of North Carolina-Fayetteville Chapter
910-483-0400 or legalaidnc.org
Rape Crisis Center Hot Line
910-485-7273 or https://www.rapecrisisonline.org/
Army Community Service
910-396-8262 or bragg.armymwr.com/us/bragg/
U. S. Army Family Advocacy Program
910-322-3418 or hotline 910-584-4267

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