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ACVAP creates new victim hotline

October 1 is the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program will observe the month with more than posters and a T-shirt.

Oct. 1 will be the launch date for ACVAP’s own, dedicated victim hotline, 264-9075.

For the past 13 years, ACVAP has provided residents of Archuleta County with a hotline number through the county dispatch center. Beginning Oct. 1, there will be a dedicated victim’s hotline with a victim advocate available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Someone will always be available,” said ACVAP director Carmen Hubbs. Whether it is just to talk or if that person’s situation might constitute intervention, a victim advocate will be available.

“The person’s call is anonymous. The call remains completely confidential. There is no tracking,” Hubbs assured.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are, unfortunately, not uncommon incidents. Hubbs says that in both instances, there are many times an individual will think, “I know this doesn’t feel right,” but still is not sure if it is wrong, if it is abuse.

The victim advocates at ACVAP evaluate the situation and help the victim evaluate the situation as well.

“I hate to think of people out there who think they have to go through abusive situations alone,” said Hubbs.

Hubbs explains one thing that is very common in abuse situations, whether for a victim or a witness, is guilt, shame and doubt. The victim might wake up wondering, “Did that really happen to me?” Because no one ever thinks, or wants to think, “I am the person that abuse happens to.”

“Many times, people doubt what they see and experience,” Hubbs said. The victim advocates will assess the situation and help the victim or friend figure out what kind of crisis it is, and if it is abuse.

The hotline, Hubbs clarified, is not just for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault, but for witnesses as well.

Friends, relatives or neighbors might also be confused. Not many people want to admit that those they love are in abusive relationships. And the question, “Is this abuse?,” Hubbs says, is very common for both victims and witnesses alike.

“Many people don’t know what to do or say, so they end up not saying anything,” Hubbs said. Part of this, she says, goes back to the societal staple of not airing dirty laundry, things that happen in the home stay in the home.

Abuse, though, is abuse in or outside the family, and Hubbs wants the hotline to be a way for people to talk about what is or has happened to them.

Hubbs went over what a call might be like. When a person calls, often they are doubtful of their emotions and what is going on. They feel that whatever abuse they incurred, they provoked, they were a part of. They blame themselves.

“The advocate tries to alleviate blame and empower the victim by giving tips of how they can control their own actions when a situation occurs,” Hubbs said.

The advocates give the caller tools to react and protect themselves, and, if necessary, the advocate will help the victim meet other needs — food, housing, counseling or health care.

It is not ACVAP’s intention, Hubbs said, to break up relationships or families. If the relationship can be healed, if it can be salvaged, then ACVAP will try to help.

“The advocate is never here to tell someone what to do,” Hubbs said. The advocate is there primarily to listen, and sometimes, Hubbs said, “that’s all a person really needs — the chance to safely verbalize a situation.

“It takes courage to call, and we understand,” Hubbs said. “This resource is one-hundred percent for the people. There are no strings attached. We are here if someone needs someone to talk to, or if they need help.”

If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, or maybe isn’t sure if their situation involves abuse or not, call the victim hotline at 264-9075.

lindsey@pagosasun.com

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