H elp is available in Grant County for anyone experiencing domestic violence.
Three women who provide assistance to those experiencing domestic trauma say being there for victims experiencing dark days and seeing them progress to survivors make their efforts worth it.
Shelly Whale is executive director of Heart of Grant County in John Day, and she and Cindy Kalin are both domestic violence and sexual assault advocates.
Kimberly Neault is the director of the Victim Assistance Program at the Grant County District Attorney’s Office at the courthouse in Canyon City.
Sometimes the two agencies assist the same clients, and although some of their roles differ, their goal is the same: to support clients experiencing abuse.
At Heart, trained advocates are available through a confidential 24/7 crisis and support hotline, for calls or texts, and at their office located at 518 S. Canyon Blvd.
Heart can also assist with emergency shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, services for children and youth, prevention education and confidential advocacy, safety planning and referrals to other services. Heart hopes to break ground on a new shelter and office called the Meredith House next year.
Neault provides support for victims and protects their rights as they navigate the judicial system. She and other staff members at the office can also provide victims with transportation to court hearings.
While the police speak with an abuser or make an arrest, advocates from Heart and Victim Assistance can help the person experiencing the trauma.
“— with tissues, a hug or a cup of tea,” Whale said.
One difference between the two agencies is that conversations with Heart staff are confidential, and they are legally required to be confidential, while at Victim Assistance they do not have the requirement to be confidential.
Whale said, if victims have questions, the advocates at Heart “can be told everything.”
“We cannot tell. It is not a choice,” Whale added. “We never tell them what to do, but we highly suggest — they know the abuser more than anyone.”
Neault said, in discussing a case, if the victim wants to tell her more about what happened, she may refer them to Heart.
“If they want police involved, they should call 911, if they want to report the abuse,” Whale said. “If they wish to keep (the conversation) private, they could always call our hotline 541-620-1342, which is available 24/7.”
Whale and Kalin both wore lavender hats with the message “Stay Strong” for October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Kalin said victims of domestic violence oftentimes incorrectly think they’re weak.
“When they’re living it, they don’t realize how strong they really are,” she said, adding that going through their difficult circumstances makes them strong.
“To me every one of them is so inspirational to overcome the power and control,” Whale said.
She said some may wonder why victims don’t just leave, adding that seven out of 11 times they go back to their abuser.
Kalin said the most dangerous time for the person being abused is when they leave.
“People not involved have no idea of the dynamics,” Whale said. “It’s daunting.”
“Looking from the outside, it’s easy to judge one of the these women, but these women are actually strong, courageous, resilient and creative,” Neault said. “We’re not in that situation.”
All three added that sometimes men are the victims of abuse, and their services are available to both men and women.
Neault said having the high level of trust that victims give them is significant.
“It is an honor that they let us be a witness to their suffering and trauma,” she said.
“It’s a very intimate place,” Whale said, Kalin adding, “— when they’re talking about their darkest times.”
Whale said the success stories are rewarding.
“You have to count the little victories along the way,” Neault said.
“We want to make sure we’re always there for anyone in need,” Whale said.
Kalin said one woman who had received help from Heart apologized for not stopping in to say hello more often at their office — she was back to life, and busy.
“We’ll always be here for you,” Kalin said she told her. “You’re spreading your wings now.”