Wyoming U.S. Attorney speaks on domestic violence, getting help for victims

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 12:24 AM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Release, Office of U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen) - Physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and other forms of emotional abuse by a current or former intimate partner or spouse is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans. It is estimated that on average nearly 20 people are abused by an intimate partner in the United States every minute. This translates into more than 10 million instances of domestic violence each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence is connected with more than half of female homicide victims.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made matters even worse. Americans are being asked to stay at home and avoid large gatherings, and in some places, in-person school instruction has been suspended in favor of remote learning from home. While these measures are well meaning, and may help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the short term, they also place many vulnerable adults and children at risk. These victims are left socially isolated and trapped in the home with their abusers, often without access to resources or networks of family, friends, and school personnel they can turn to for help and support.

Meanwhile, abusers whose violence is often triggered by or associated with substance abuse may be experiencing increased financial pressures and stress related to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown or job loss. These emotions often lead to further abuse of alcohol or drugs that may aggravate cycles of substance-induced violence. In these trying circumstances, it is essential that victims understand where and how to get help.

Calls to law enforcement are always an option to address immediate threats, but there are other community resources available to help meet practical needs of those who suffer, including housing and financial assistance. Domestic violence advocacy programs are located in all 23 counties in Wyoming. These programs are committed to serving victims by providing valuable resources such as crisis intervention and support services to adult victims of domestic violence and their children free of charge and at any time day or night.

Services may include emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis and information hotline, safety planning, counseling, case management, child assessments, information and referrals, education for community awareness, and training for law enforcement and other professionals. Many programs also provide legal and court advocacy, transportation, relocation assistance, economic empowerment classes, transitional housing, daycare, outreach services, and rape crisis intervention.

All of us in law enforcement are committed to maintaining public safety, preventing future violence, and upholding the rule of law, but our efforts may come too late for some victims. We understand and support the important role community social services and other resources play in addressing and helping prevent domestic violence.

As we approach the end of October, designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with resources in your community that are available to you or others you may know who need practical assistance to escape abusive situations. You can find your local domestic violence/sexual assault advocacy program by calling the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault toll-free at 1-844- 264-8080 or visiting their website at Help is also available by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. We can make a difference together to help stop the abuse.

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