Raising awareness in the community is the goal for staff members at ACCESS during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
ACCESS, or Assault Care Center Extending Shelter Services, serves a five-county area including Boone, Greene, Story, Marshall and Tama counties.
From an easily accessible, yet slightly tucked-away office in Boone, ACCESS staff members meet with people affected by domestic violence and walk them through the often long process of moving on to a more peaceful life.
The office location is not published in order to protect the people who need the services, says Alicia, sexual assault services coordinator. (Last names have been reserved here to preserve confidentiality.)
“We offer a variety of services, and a lot of our time is spent with one-on-one counseling for domestic or sexual assault victims,” says Alicia. “It’s mostly crisis counseling — we’re not therapists — but we are certified to do those types of counseling. Emergency counseling is a big part of it.”
Alicia notes that only about one in four incidents of domestic violence are reported to law enforcement. Victims often have a myriad of reasons for not reporting an incident. Perhaps it’s the first time, and the victim is sure “it will never happen again.” Or perhaps it’s the 100th time, and the victim is shy about admitting to the situation.
Financial reasons are often a large factor in the failure to report, as is the fear that the offender may use the court system against the victim, Alicia says. Many times the offender has even threatened to make sure the victim doesn’t get to see children or perhaps threatens a custody battle.
And, believe it or not, love is often a big reason.
“They do love that person, and they do have good memories,” Alicia explains.
But the long-term impact, especially on children, may be one of the best reasons to report domestic violence whenever it occurs.
The people at ACCESS can talk to victims in confidence and help them make their own decisions. Services are free and, if a victim does choose to go forward in the legal system, ACCESS representatives can stay with them through the entire process.
“We can’t give legal advice, but we have been through the system enough to give them information,” Alicia says.
Help is out there.
In Boone, victims of domestic violence can call (515) 432-3153 to take that first step toward a more peaceful life.