By: Lori Hammelman
ROCHELLE — HOPE of Ogle County’s mission is to advocate on behalf of domestic abuse victims and their children as well as provide resources and support services in a welcoming environment. Just recently the agency expanded their adult, teen, and children’s counseling services to include early evening hours.
Ruth Carter, Executive Director, explained the majority of HOPE’s clients come to the agency for some type of supportive service such as individual, family counseling, crisis counseling or bringing or attending support groups for adults and children which is offered twice a week. In the past fiscal year, HOPE of Ogle County has assisted 446 people who were affected by abusive relationships.
The support services HOPE provides are more than just the initial crises. Counselors provide ongoing supportive services in all types of domestic abuse cases, even when an order of protection is necessary. HOPE also provides family counseling for the non-offender and their children.
“Throughout the order of protection process we work with people that we serve not just as a support through the court, but on the phone, just to listen. Our counselors are there with them throughout and even afterwards,” Carter said. “I think it’s important for people to know it’s not just a quick in and out type of service only…we try and wrap our arms around the clients we serve and help them through the process.” Above all, Carter emphasized the domestic abuse agency is all-inclusive and provides services regardless of sexual orientation, income, age, race, creed, sex, and ethnicity.
Across all lines
Domestic violence does not discriminate and affects all level of socioeconomic status, education, and race. It also comes in many forms including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
Recently Carter and three staff members attended a four-day advanced course on strangulation prevention, packed with knowledge useful in recognizing victims of strangulation as well as what medical responses are vital to them. The event was organized through the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention through Alliance for Hope International, which provided information on the physiological consequences, along with the emotional and psychological impacts as a result from that action. Since the course Carter, along with HOPE staff Marisol Martinez, Ashley Peck, and Kelly Kempson have been training first responders and professionals who work with domestic violence victims including local law enforcement, 9-1-1 operators, EMTs, as well as probation officers from the 15th Judicial Circuit and are also available to train, emergency room doctors, medical providers and social service providers. So far they’ve trained about 70 professionals on what they have learned.
Key factors discussed in training include the proper medical response that needs to be in place in strangulation cases, rephrasing initial questions to “Has the person ever put their hands on your neck?” versus “Have you ever been choked?,” signs and symptoms to look for, and knowing that not all strangulation episodes will be photographable at the DV scene. Also explained is when arteries and veins have been compromised in any way, memory is often affected. The training also touches on understanding the physiological aspects to the body that could take days, weeks, or years to manifest and what single medical test is crucial to detecting serious issues early. “Often times with law enforcement being the first responder to a domestic scene they could really be the person that saves someone’s life by just knowing some basic info and how to ask the questions. Many people don’t share strangulation automatically,” Carter said. “If victims start to show some signs about potentially being strangled law enforcement can learn how to best follow up with that and how to ask them further questions. Those first responders really play a huge part in someone feeling comfortable enough to share details and also try to remember even bits and pieces…and to have the patience that is important to show when you are working with someone that’s not quite remembering everything.” Adding, “In some cases when officers get to the scene a strangulation victim may be disoriented to a level that may look like something else is the cause, such as substance use.”
In part due from funding from the Rochelle Area Community Foundation, the Illinois County Associates and grant funds HOPE of Ogle County is hosting a one-day training session on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the First Presbyterian Church in Rochelle. Dr. Bill Smock and Gael Strack, JD, with the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention will facilitate. The training is aimed towards professionals who work with domestic abuse cases. For those interested in attending or would like more information, please contact Ruth Carter or Marisol Martinez at HOPE, 815-562-4323. Carter said the institute is helping to educate people on the physical/physiological aspects as well as provide investigative tips to ensure victims get the help they need. For Martinez, the four-day training was a life-changer. “The amount of information I learned was so good. I thought I was going to be drained and ready to come home, but I was ready to come home and work,” Martinez said. Training is available on site as well as the one-day session in October. “We really want to be able to spread this to the medical community…we will tailor our trainings to their staff’s hours. We know that it’s very important each person is trained on knowing the physiological and emotional consequences of strangulation — it’s not just about the psychological but also about the physiological aspect,” Carter added.
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By: Lori Hammelman