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Advocates help lives turned ‘upside-down’ by domestic violence

Victim Assistance staff members advocate for those affected by domestic violence.
Angel Carpenter

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on October 10, 2017 1:10PM

Victim Intervention Specialist Kimberly Neault, left, and Victim Assistance Program Director Andrea Officer work at the Grant County District Attorney’s Office at the courthouse in Canyon City.

The Eagle/Angel Carpenter

Victim Intervention Specialist Kimberly Neault, left, and Victim Assistance Program Director Andrea Officer work at the Grant County District Attorney’s Office at the courthouse in Canyon City.

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Cases of reported domestic violence handled by local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office show Grant County is not immune to the problem.

In 2016, the DA’s office served 108 victims of domestic violence, providing 2,249 services to those victims.

The domestic violence related cases included:

• Domestic and family violence, 73

• Child abuse, 12

• Child sexual abuse, 11

• Stalking, 5

• Violation of protective order, 3

• Adult sexual assault, 2

“Many people believe that domestic violence is an isolated event, and they’re more aware of it happening in bigger cities,” said victim assistance program director Andrea Officer. “They are really in denial of domestic violence happening in rural communities.”

Officer works alongside Kimberly Neault, a victim intervention specialist, and Mike Durr, an investigator and forensic interviewer, for the DA at the Grant County Courthouse in Canyon City.

Officer said they are there to explain each part of the process as the victim navigates the judicial system. A no contact order is automatically placed on any domestic violence assault cases.

If the victim fears for their safety and/or the safety of their children, options for housing, transportation and other forms of support from other agencies are explored.

Officer said they can also help the victim acquire the documents needed for restitution, including damages such as medical bills and loss of wages due to injury — any out-of-pocket receipts that are over and above what any available insurance will pay.

A personal call is made to the victim, notifying them of the arraignment date; during an arraignment the defendant is notified, in court, of the charges they face.

Usually 30 days from arraignment, a plea hearing is set.

“The DA and deputy DA (Mara Houck) will discuss what their plea offer will look like and get the victim’s input,” Officer said. “Then at the plea hearing, if the defendant takes the plea, they can go right into sentencing, at which time the victim has a chance to speak at sentencing and share their feelings on how the crime affected them.”

If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is set, and advocates are present during the trial to assist.

Neault added they’re there to offer support.

“It’s not our job to be judgmental of the situation,” she said. “If they’re visiting us, it’s often because something bad has happened, and their life has been turned upside-down.”

Officer said they try to offer victims tools and resources to move forward.

“We hope that they come away from their ordeal stronger and with more faith in themselves for meeting the challenges in their lives,” she said. “It’s especially important for families to understand that domestic violence doesn’t just affect that individual or family, it affects whole community and society.”

She added, “When men and women turn a blind eye to how women are treated, it gives an attitude of tolerance toward rape, assault and domestic violence toward children, which demoralizes the core of our community.”

Neault said she enjoys being an advocate.

“It’s a hard job, but I like that I’m able to try to help,” she said.

“We like to encourage people,” Officer said. “I like to encourage people to be better.”

For more information, call Officer at the DA’s office at 541-575-4026.



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