Domestic violence, as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
“Domestic Violence is not an anger issue, it’s a power and control issue,” said Sherry Sutton, court advocate with the Women’s Crisis Center/Russell House in Steelville. “A woman is in the most danger when she tries to leave; she is 75 percent more likely to die if she tries to leave.” She noted that many people question why the women don’t just get away from the situation, but explained that is when she is in the most danger. Most women try to leave an average of seven times before they succeed.
Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, and those who are married, living together, or dating. Sutton said there are no boundaries for this kind of abuse, noting that it affects all sorts of people, including high-level professionals and even law enforcement personnel.
Russell House provides the only emergency women’s shelter in the area, but the shelter is only one of the services the organization provides for those who have been victims of abuse. Russell House also offers sexual assault emergency room response 24/7. Additionally, Russell House has a number of services to help victims of domestic violence including adult and teen children counseling, educational groups, a children’s program, hospital and court advocacy, veracity batterer intervention, crisis services, violence prevention, and outreach services.
The organization offers services specifically to Crawford, Dent, Phelps, and Maries County, but will work with victims from anywhere. As Sutton pointed out, some victims need to leave the area in which they live to be safe.
In 2012 in Crawford County, Russell House/Women’s Crisis Center served 210 women and men (the organization provides assistance to men who are victims, but Sutton reported the vast majority of those they help are women). That number doesn’t include children of the victims who didn’t receive direct services from the outreach office, although, of course, they are impacted by the support their parent receives. In 2011, 188 were served. As of September 30 of this year, the organization has provided services for 185.
“Every year, it increases,” Sutton said. She noted that part of the increase in numbers is because more are becoming aware of the services provided by Russell House and are taking advantage of the help. But she also said that the numbers of domestic violence situations overall are increasing, too. “The economy is a problem,” she said. “More men are at home with more opportunities to abuse, and there is more drinking going on.”
Of course these numbers don’t represent all those who have faced domestic violence in this community. “We don’t see those who don’t report,” Sutton said. “And a lot of women do have support, so they don’t contact us.”
The Women’s Crisis Center in Steelville provides outreach services to help women who are in an abusive situation, but do not want to go to the shelter in Rolla. The majority of Sutton’s work involves court advocacy—helping women with completing applications for orders of protection, and going to court with them. But, she also provides information on the available resources in the county, and gives them someone to talk to—letting them know they are not alone. In most cases, the abuser isolates their victim, keeping them from friends and family and any kind of support network. Sutton noted that most women will only leave a relationship if they have support.
But not all women choose to leave. “Our big thing (for them) is safety planning,” Sutton said. “If they choose to stay in the relationship, we want to offer ideas for them on how to live safely in that relationship. Anything we can offer to support them—either to stay safely in the relationship, or to get out.”
In addition to the support groups and free counseling offered to victims, Russell House can provide community education presentations. “We have someone who comes to Crawford County and does prevention education,” Sutton said. Education for children and teens is age appropriate and goes from bullying to dating violence.
Sutton pointed out two specific issues to Crawford County. “First is the fact that we have so many rural areas,” she said. “Transportation is an issue for women, and they don’t want to leave the area—take their kids out of school and move to Rolla. The other issue is legal representation—there are only two attorneys in town who will take payments. And none do pro bono work.”
The work Russell House does for victims of abuse is funded through grants and through donations. There are always needs, especially financial ones. This Friday and Saturday offers an opportunity to help with a special event called Riders for Refuge in Cuba. For other information on upcoming fundraisers and other needs, check out the Russell House Facebook page.
The Women's Crisis Center- Crawford County
116 E. Main, Steelville, MO 65565
(Office) 1-573-775-5101 or (Cell) 1-573-578-3587
Hours: M-F: 8:00-4:00
24-Hour Domestic Violence Crisis Line 1-800-998-8340
24-Hour Sexual Violence Crisis Line 1-888-570-3703