Domestic violence is about power and control, according to Diane Umphress, executive director of Amberly's Place, which has a crisis team to assist abuse victims in Yuma County.
"The abuser is very good at this tactic and has figured out ways to make the victims feel completely trapped and dependent on them. Thus the ongoing cycle of abuse," she said.
One way Amberly’s Place helps is by opening up its food pantry to help victims feed their children. “This community is amazing in assisting us in keeping our pantry full of food so that we can assist with one of the basic needs which keeps a victim trapped in abuse, the ability to feed one’s children,” Umphress noted.
Of the 181 victims served in July, 102 were victims of domestic violence. “Family violence is hard for some to understand as to why victims stay. In a world where it takes two incomes to make ends meet, it is very difficult for a victim to pack up and leave,” she explained.
Historically the number of abuse cases goes down in July as the population also goes down. This July was no different for Amberly’s Place. School is out, and children lose one of their closest allies -- teachers, who often can identify a child who comes from a dysfunctional home by the behaviors in class and how they associate with other children.
Nevertheless, in July, 100 victims were under the age of 18. “Children we assist always outnumber the adults we help. Children are paying attention to the behaviors in the home and are watching and learning,” she noted. “Violence in the home is setting children up for failure, poor self esteem, poor coping skills, to name a few issues they will face.”
Umphress encourages everyone to be on alert and report suspected abuse. “Reporting suspected abuse is always the correct answer. If you witness it or hear it, make that report immediately. Your call might be the call for help that the victim was waiting for.”
The second highest number of calls for services in July was for adult sexual assault. Last month, the agency assisted 10 victims of sexual assault.
“You might think that’s not so bad for a county this large. However, statistically we know that only 1 in 3 victims report sexual assault and some statistics state 1 in 5 report,” Umphress said.
Using the conservative statistic number, there would have been 30 sexual assault victims in Yuma County last month and only 10 reported.
“Sexual assault is a difficult crime to report, as the victim stresses over not being believed or held accountable for their own assault. As has been proven in two high profile cases lately, a person’s reputation can indeed make people fearful to report sexual assault,” Umphress said.
She pointed to the case of Dr. Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics Team doctor convicted of molesting hundreds of young girls. “One of his survivors said it best when she said, ‘We need to stop letting people’s reputation’s keep us from believing a victim.' Hundreds of victims would have been saved had this not been the case with Dr. Nassar.
“As a community we need to not let anyone’s reputation impede a report or investigation of abuse and listen to the victim. Making a report is not easy, people don’t normally use this as a way to get attention.”
She noted that Amberly’s Place provides a safe, caring place to report sexual abuse and that the nurses who provide medical exams have years of experience “and are very compassionate.” However, it’s still very difficult to make the report and undergo the medical forensic exam.
“This exam includes collecting DNA evidence as well as talking to someone about a very sensitive assault. Thus the reason that only 1 in 3 sexual assault victims will report. The perpetrator counts on a victim not reporting due to shame and embarrassment,” Umphress explained.
“As a community, it is important for us to report any suspected abuse. It is also important for us to not cast judgment on the victim and wait and see what happens in the investigation.”
She expressed appreciation to the community for supporting abuse victims. “The support a victim receives at the time of the report is so important to the healing process of the victim.”
She highlighted some of those acts of support, “from the amazing Capes of Courage made by wonderful volunteers to the donated food in the pantry, diapers and formula. Each act of kindness makes the advocates' job easier and sends a message of support to the victims.”
Pointing to the July statistics, Umphress reminded people that “each represents a person who needed help, and thanks to this community we were able to assist them.”
She recalled one young boy who said as he walked out the exit playroom, “‘I like this place.’ We hope that all that visit like this place and the help they are provided.”
Amberly’s Place is located at 1310 S. 3rd Ave. and can be reached at 928-373-9691.