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Domestic violence

Published May 03. 2010 05:00PM

Not being allowed to make phone calls. Not being allowed to leave your home except for specific reasons, and then having your car mileage checked to make sure you haven't gone anywhere else. A slap to the face or a punch to the stomach if dinner is late. Being constantly told you are stupid, ugly and worthless.

Women in abusive situations often believe they have nowhere to turn. They live in fear that if they do reach out for help, their abuser will find out and hurt or kill them -or their children or pets.

Domestic violence can take many forms, from absolute control over finances, to relentless emotional denigration, to actual punches, slaps and kicks.

Women trapped in abusive relationships, or who have broken free of them but need to be able to talk with someone who cares and can be trusted, can now call 1-800-424-5600 and ask about the support group for victims of domestic violence.

To make sure women who attend the sessions are safe, staff at the Domestic Violence Services Center do not make public where or when the meetings are held.

Calling the hot line number will also connect women with trained advocates who can help them to safely take the first steps toward freedom, said volunteer/outreach coordinator Tammy Rodgers and outreach director Jolene Miraglia of the Domestic Violence Service Center.

The center helps women in Carbon and Luzerne counties. The support group is being started again after a yearlong hiatus. The sessions gently guide women through all aspects of breaking free of abuse and starting new lives.

A call to the hot line can help a woman to safely take those first steps toward freedom. The trained advocates who answer the calls are there to listen and to guide, never to judge.

"We're options counselors," Rodgers said. "I'm not going to sit there and tell you what to do. I'm not going to sit there and tell you, well, you've got to file for a protection-from-abuse order, you've got to leave him and you've got to come to the shelter and 'you have to,' 'you must,' 'you should.'"

Instead, the advocates tell women what options they have, and gently encourage them to make their own choices. Often, an action such as filing for a protection from abuse order or leaving her abuser triggers an escalation in violence.

If and when a woman decides she can leave an abusive relationship, "that's when safety planning becomes the most important thing, because we know that's when her risk is elevated," Miraglia said. The advocates encourage women who are thinking about leaving abusive relationships to call the hot line so a safety plan can be developed.

For some women with no other resources, the Domestic Violence Services Center shelter can offer refuge. Currently, the shelter houses about six people, Miraglia said.

"We can house 22" women and children, Rodgers said.

Anyone needing shelter must call the hot line.

The help provided by the center is needed: In 2008, 147 people died in Pennsylvania as a result of domestic violence, including two in Carbon County, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That's up from 92 deaths in 2006, according to the agency.

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