CTC holds domestic violence awareness, prevention event
By BRITTANY FHOLER
A 10-person panel at Central Texas College on Wednesday aimed to bring awareness and prevention of domestic violence during the college’s third annual event.
The program was organized with the help of Nadiya Filimonova, a counselor with the Student and Employment Assistance Program/ Substance Abuse Resource Center (SARC) at Central Texas College. Filimonova said this was her third year with the event, which is held every year in April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“We invite the experts from the community to talk about the issues and talk about resources that are available for people. We encourage people to come, listen and if they need additional help afterward, they will come to our offices and we will give them information,” Filimonova said. “The main focus was today on the military because we are here in the Fort Hood area and we have students who are veterans and active duty military but there is help available for civilians too and in our offices, we have resources available for them.”
The panel was made up of ten experts from different organizations in the Central Texas community.
Robena Tomlinson, the Installation Victim Advocate for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment with the Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program, spoke first.
Tomlinson explained the military’s stance regarding sexual assault, which is “Not in my squad.”
“You do not need a fallen comrade at any time,” Tomlinson said. She added that “squad” is not just limited to soldiers but encompasses families and communities as well.
Tomlinson also explained the military’s policy regarding LGBTQ soldiers in these situations.
“As long as they have been identified on their DEERS, we will still treat them as such because we know that domestic violence and sexual assault has no respective gender, sex, religion, creed, color, whatever the case may be,” Tomlinson said. “Everyone is still entitled to the same services and it’s really important for you to understand we do not discriminate against that. Nobody should be harmed or injured.”
The next speakers were Barbara Stephens and Sharon Jackson-Smith, with the Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program. Stephens works to educate soldiers about the prevention of spousal and child abuse and explain what the consequences are for abusers.
Stephens listed the four types of abuse: emotional, sexual, physical and neglect before explaining the effect domestic violence can have on children.
“We all grew up differently. Each and every one of us did not grow up in the same household with the same parents, with the same siblings in the same town, so we do not have the same values,” Stephens said.
In a relationship where these different values come together, that could result in conflict, she pointed out.
“If you live in a household, where the way you settle a conflict is through physical, emotional, sexual or neglect, that behavior is going to spill over to the children, so now they are adults and they display the same behavior because that’s all they know,” Stephens said.
The Family Advocacy Program offers classes designed for the beginning of a relationship all the way to parenting as well as classes designed specifically for military family struggles like reintegration after deployment.
Erin Martinson, managing attorney for the Advocates for Victims of Crime program under the Texas Legal Services Center, shared her thoughts on the importance of protective orders and her frustration with the prosecutors who don’t handle those.
Prior to joining the Texas Legal Services Center, Martinson said she spent time training prosecutors on how to handle protective orders for victims.
Martinson pointed to Bell and McClennan counties as two counties where prosecutors decline to handle protective orders. When asked why that is, she attributed it to there not being much accountability for the prosecutors. When asked if it’s possible to sue the prosecutors, she explained that she can’t due to receiving funding from state and federal levels.
“But one of the things that I can do is represent victims in their criminal cases so that the prosecutor has to talk to me and I can help those victims assert their rights in those criminal cases,” Martinson said. “Prosecutors also, I think, don’t want to get involved in what they consider to be mini divorce or custody hearings. The bottom line is that protective order practice is easy, it’s essential for victims getting safe and I feel like prosecutors have an ethical obligation to file these orders and in reality they just don’t do it.”
The final speakers included Nicole Elkin, the Interpersonal Violence Coordinator with the Veterans Affairs, and Jeffrey Moe, the student veteran coordinator of the Central Texas Veteran Health Care System.
Elkin said they are starting to offer domestic violence intervention classes for batterers.
“To be clear, domestic violence intervention classes for batterers is not anger management. People that have issues with anger management, have an issue with anger. People that are batterers, have an issue with power and control,” Elkin said. These classes won’t be court mandated with a certification because they want people that want to change, Elkin added. They also offer survivor support groups, with a curriculum that includes a lethality assessment to assess lethality in the home.
The key speaker of the event was Hannah Jones, a Texas A&M University Central Texas graduate student and intern with the CTC Student and Employee Assistance Program. Jones shared her personal story of being affected by both domestic violence, through her mother’s boyfriends and her mother herself, and sexual abuse, surviving incest and rape.
“[These instances] impacted my life in such a way that I’ve become a counselor so that I can work with other incest and sexual abuse survivors,” Jones said. “This is what I want to do with my life.”
After the panel, Jones explained that she had wanted to be part of the panel years ago but at the time didn’t want to be photographed or interviewed. When she was asked again for this year, she said yes.
“I think it’s important for people to get information. A lot of people live in a world where they think none of this happens and they want to pretend it isn’t a thing,” Jones said. “I think it’s important to let people know this does happen and the statistics are so staggering and then to let survivors know they can still do things with themselves. I survived incest and rape and domestic violence and I’m getting my Master’s Degree. [finishing May 2018].”