By John Finefrock
Domestic violence is on the rise in Archuleta County.
Archuleta County Undersheriff Derek Woodman noted there has been an “uptick” in domestic violence calls over the past month and Rise Above Violence, a local nonprofit dedicated to assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, has seen its call volume increase.
“We had one weekend where we typically get one or two cases and we had seven over a weekend,” said Carmen Hubbs, executive director of Rise, in an interview with The SUN.
Hubbs noted that Rise is still fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing there was a misconception some of its services are not currently available.
“The only thing that is changed is we can’t provide our services face-to-face like we did typically, but those same services can be accomplished over the phone,” Hubbs said.
Hubbs explained that when natural disasters or catastrophic events like a global pandemic occur, domestic abuse and sexual assault numbers go up.
“We are experiencing that,” she said.
Rise’s website defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors that are used by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
The website states that over half of all American families experience domestic violence at least once, and for about a third, it is ongoing.
In 50 percent to 70 percent of violent families, the children are also abused, according to the website.
Hubbs explained one in four women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence.
“NO ONE deserves to be abused or assaulted. You did nothing to deserve abuse. You are a victim of a violent crime. You need not feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed to ask for support,” Rise’s website states.
Rise’s services, which are all confidential and free, and available in English and Spanish, include:
• Immediate crisis intervention available 24 hours a day by an advocate trained to listen and provide support at 264-9075.
• Court advocates to explain the criminal justice system and assist with civil restraining orders.
• Emergency transportation to a safe shelter.
• Financial assistance.
• An online chat option at riseaboveviolence.org to talk to an advocate that is confidential and compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Hubbs explained that people in abusive relationships can’t always make a phone call safely, highlighting the importance of the chat feature.
• Rise advocates can also help people create a “Personal Safety Plan,” which is developed with the survivor to determine what safety measures are most helpful to their particular situation, according to Hubbs.
Hubbs acknowledged that COVID-19 can make people wary about going to the hospital if they need medical treatment, and noted the local hospital is doing an excellent job of taking safety precautions and urged those who need medical care to go get it.
“If people need medical care —especially for sexual assault victims right now — it’s scary about thinking about going to a hospital, so I’m afraid that people aren’t seeking medical attention for fear of contracting COVID-19,” Hubbs said.
Hubbs also explained there is a misconception that Rise encourages people to leave abusive relationships.
“We try to encourage people to just be safe, whatever that is. Whether that’s in their home, whether that’s out of their home, whether that’s in their relationship, whether that’s out of their relationship,” Hubbs said, adding, “A lot of people that end up being killed — the worst cases of domestic violence — it happens after they’ve left, so leaving sometimes is the most dangerous time for people. So we don’t ever advocate for that. We absolutely assess what is the safest route for them and what do they want … We never tell people to leave, that is not our objective.”
During the interview, Hubbs repeatedly explained that each person and situation can have different safety measures tailored to their unique situation.
“We always try to explore what makes them feel safer and what they’ll actually implement if things start getting unsafe,” she said.
Hubbs reported that emotional abuse and financial abuse nearly always accompany domestic violence.
Emotional abuse can include anything that affects the victim’s psychological or mental health, which may include insults, constant blaming, social isolation, intimidation and degradation of the victim.
“Isolation is one of the top tactics that abusive partners use … So this is a perfect storm for victims because this is a great excuse to isolate,” said Hubbs, referring to the stay-at-home orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When abusers take control of or limit access to shared or individual assets or limit the current or future earning potential of victims as a strategy of power and control, that is economic or financial abuse. Financial abusers separate victims from their own resources, rights and choices, isolating victims financially and creating forced dependency for victims,” wrote Ashley Wilson, a Rise staff member, in an article for The SUN late last year.
Hubbs suggested that, especially during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easy for people to feel that their situation is hopeless, but stressed there are options to help.
“Advocates are still available,” Hubbs said, adding, “It takes more creativity on a survivor’s part and an advocate’s part to figure it out because we’re so isolated at this time, but it can be accomplished. I just want to send that message out really strongly.”
Rise’s 24-hour hotline can be reached at 264-9075.
More information about the free services Rise offers can be found at riseaboveviolence.org.
Domestic violence on the rise, local services can help
By John Finefrock