Heart of Grant County staff members are bringing attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
They started off October with a Color Me Free Run and Walk on Oct. 4 and decorated their John Day office with purple T-shirts and a banner that states “Domestic Violence Hurts, Heart of Grant County Helps.”
Heart is a nonprofit domestic violence and sexual assault protection program serving county residents.
The organization helps about 75 to 100 clients a year, and sees four or five new clients a month as well as ongoing clients, said Heart’s executive director Shelly Whale-Murphy. The staff at Heart also includes office coordinator Tammy Larkin and advocate Cindy Kalin.
All three work with a network of local supporters to help families break the cycle of violence.
Domestic violence, which Whale-Murphy said has roots in power and control, can include sexual assault as well as verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. It can also include social, financial and spiritual control, stalking, harassment, threats and intimidation.
Services at Heart include a 24-hour hotline, temporary safe housing, emergency transportation and support groups that include art therapy.
Whale-Murphy said they can also help a client obtain a free restraining order, if qualified, whether or not he/she is married to the abuser.
She said she and her staff are mandated by grant requirements to keep private the information given to them.
“We do not disclose information to anyone unless the client give us permission to or requests for us to release information,” Whale-Murphy said.
The most important thing a person can do when someone shares their abuse, Whale-Murphy said, is listen to the person and believe what they say.
“It’s important to listen and believe because many times the perpetrator is seen as a wonderful, kind, giving person, which is part of their manipulative scheme to hide what they really do,” she said.
They know that if they go down the street to help grandma pack in wood, they’ll appear to be a nice person, when they’re actually abusing their wife at home, she said.
Meanwhile, the abused lives a life “thinking no one will believe them, which propels them to hold the secret longer, which means they don’t get the help they need,” she said. “By holding the secret longer, it just makes it harder for her to tell, and it continues to uphold his manipulative plan — so, listening and believing is very important.”
If someone with a friend or relative experiencing abuse has questions, they can call Heart’s office.
“We don’t mind people calling and asking questions,” she said.
However, to start the process, the advocates at Heart need to speak with the victim.
“A friend of a client called and said ‘I’m going to give them your phone number,’ and that’s a great start.” Whale-Murphy said.
They can help the victim develop a safety plan.
“Leaving is a process that sometimes takes weeks and in some cases months,” she said. “Our clients are wise and innovative with their safety practices. ... They’re the ones that know what’s best, and they know what sets him off, and when the safe time is to leave.”
Whale-Murphy said most of the clients they help are female, but services are equally available to males.
She said that while they’re not clinicians, they are there to advocate for victims.
“We are there to help them navigate their journey to get free of violence in the best way that we can with the services we can offer,” she said.
She said some people don’t realize they’re in an abusive situation.
“There are some things we tell our clients: You do not deserve what you are living with. You are not the cause of his behavior — he intentionally chooses to behave as he does,” she said.
“If they choose to have more contact with us, we definitely become a strength or a supporting factor in their life,” Whale-Murphy said. “We’re there to strengthen and encourage them.”
Heart’s office number is 541-575-4335 and their emergency hotline is 541-620-1342.