The month of October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time when organizations like Calaveras Crisis Center, operated by The Resource Connection, work especially hard to raise awareness of domestic violence issues, support survivors, and call attention to resources available for those in need.
The Resource Connection has served Amador and Calaveras residents for 32 years, offering services such as The Food Bank, Women Infants and Children (WIC) support, the Head Start program, and the Calaveras Crisis Center. The crisis center branch of the organization focuses on prevention and intervention, specifically in assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, raising awareness, and educating the community.
Calaveras Crisis Center Operations Manager Judi Cunha explains how their focus on intervention and prevention helps curb domestic violence.
One of the tenets of their work is community outreach and education. This program focuses on educating the public about personal safety and interpersonal violence via presentations on topics such as safe touch, bullying, assertiveness, sexual assault prevention, and teen dating. These presentations are brought to schools in the area free of charge and customized for all grade levels, preschool through high school.
“We’re hoping through safety planning and intervention, we can get people to the place where it doesn’t blow up.” Cunha says.
They also provide crisis care for current or recent victims of domestic violence, through temporary emergency shelter available to individuals and children fleeing a domestic violence situation.
Survivors of domestic violence are also able to utilize peer-to-peer counseling and professional trauma therapy, support groups, and legal assistance by way of accompaniment and advocacy.
“It’s a self-help atmosphere. We are not lawyers, so we can’t give legal advice,” Cunha said, but noted that they are able to help by “assisting with navigating the criminal justice system.” She continued, “We can accompany (survivors) when going to court (and) help with understanding the criminal justice system.”
Advocates at the Crisis Center also assist victims with procuring restraining orders, attending medical and social service visits, and responding to law enforcement or hospital requests in emergency situations.
Special services are available for children, through the Calaveras Children’s Advocacy Center. Services include licensed professional therapy, transportation, education on the criminal justice process, referrals, and advocacy and support for children and their families.
Unfortunately, there has been a greater need for their services in the past year.
Cunha said, “We really noticed when people were asked to stay home, that environment really exacerbated violence in the house with children in particular.”
She also noted more requests for services from elderly populations in the counties and more requests for restraining orders.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, outreach events are limited, and some services, such as the center’s survivor support group, have been moved online.
The Crisis Center still does what it can to be a visible resource during an isolating time, by posting flyers throughout the area, taking out ads when budget allows, and attending community functions to hand out pamphlets and purple ribbons to wear.
Perhaps the center’s most important contribution, however, is its 24-hour Crisis Telephone Hotline.
According to Cunha, crisis calls to the hotline rose 350% during the first three months of the stay-at-home order. She added, “Since then, calls to our hotline have been double that of the equivalent dates before the Covid emergency declaration.”
During office hours, calls to the hotline are routed directly to the business offices in San Andreas and Murphys, and after-hours an answering service directs the call to the appropriate emergency service. Callers are instantly connected with a live advocate in their area who can help them to navigate a domestic violence or sexual assault situation.
The staff at the Crisis Center is asking everyone to wear purple on Thursday, Oct. 21, or “Purple Thursday,” to help raise awareness and show support for survivors of domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, contact the Crisis Center by phone or call 911.
The hotline can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 209-754-4011 or 209-736-4011.
The non-emergency phone number for Calaveras Crisis Center is 209-754-1300. Find more information about The Resource Connection and Calaveras Crisis Center at https://trcac.org/