Creative Liaison Chosen as Volunteer of the Month

By Chyna Snell

New month, new Volunteer of the Month. Join BTS in celebrating our very own Creative Liaison, Stephanie Nease. The impactful work that she brings to BTS does not go unnoticed. Her peers on our volunteer team have nothing but good things to say about her.

Brian Nguyen, Director of Social Media, describes her as “creative, bubbly, and overall the embodiment of a team player.”

He went on to remark that “Stephanie is a team player who’s not afraid to step up when things need to get done and [is] always coming up with fun, innovative, and creative ideas for…marketing collateral [and] campaigns and within our organization.

I’m thrilled she’s March’s Volunteer of the Month. She always goes above and beyond what is expected and lives and breathe our mission…I look forward to the amazing things she continues to bring to the organization.”

BTS founder Kristen Faith recalls her first conversation with Stephanie. When she asked Stephanie what she  was passionate about and how she saw herself fitting within our team,

“[s]he expressed her love for creativity and attention to detail. I knew the creative team was going to be perfect for her.”

Amy Jasinski, our Creative Director & Graphic Designer shared that “Steph has been my right-hand woman since very early on in my career here at BTS. Since the beginning, she has been reliably kind, communicative, creative, and compassionate. Her dedication to our organization and communicating its message, as well as her unfailing loyalty to myself and our peers, has made Steph an invaluable part of our team.

Creatively and emotionally, Steph has proved herself to be an ideal friend and teammate; she always brings humor, vibrancy, empathy, and amazing ideas to the table. I’m so excited that she’s receiving this award – she deserves it, and she’s earned it!”

Congratulations to our March Volunteer of the Month. The dedicated work of our generous volunteers is what moves our mission. We are stronger together.

If you have been inspired by what we do at BTS, join us. You can learn about our current volunteer opportunities here.

Nonprofit Aims to Reduce Intimate Partner Violence in Colorado Springs

By Jamey Sheesley

On February 22, Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTS) opened their doors to the Colorado Springs community. BTSADV CEO and Founder Kristen Faith officially cut the ribbon at the grand opening ceremony. This is a sign of a positive change in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

According to The Gazette, Colorado Springs police respond to 35 to 40 domestic violence calls per day, which is about five percent of their call for service. That is thousands more calls than Denver, even though Denver has a slightly larger population. Denver’s domestic violence calls are only about three percent of their daily calls. El Paso County has also had 43 domestic homicides between 2013 and 2018. This deadly cycle needs to be broken.

So how can BTS help the epidemic is Colorado Springs?

“Domestic violence is like a sandwich,” said Paruginog. We provide the first slice of bread, the prevention efforts. Our Speakers Bureau provides businesses and academic institutions with quality education by experienced advocates in the field. Shelters help with immediate crisis and are a center for those who suffer from domestic violence because they provide immediate safety at their confidential safehouse for individuals escaping victims. They are the meat of the sandwich.

To complete the sandwich, BTSADV provides the other slice of bread or the recovery and healing support from abuse. Once victims are away from domestic violence, that does not mean they are free from the pain they suffered and they may have difficulty restarting their lives. BTSADV is there to help with the aftermath of domestic violence. Many victims suffer from PTSD, C-PTSD, low self-esteem, and finding their place in the world in the aftermath. BTS also offers survivor retreats for healing, along with scholarship programs and Angel family programs. With the statistics of domestic violence in Colorado Springs, BTSADV can help this community with domestic violence. They can share information and help those in need alongside TESSA and the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, who BTS most recently partnered with. BTSADV does not offer crisis support, which is why it is so important to partner with other groups that can offer those services.

It is necessary for Colorado Springs to have these organizations advocating against domestic violence because, with as many calls as the police department receives in El Paso County, the more awareness communicated, the better. Colorado Springs is home to Fort Carson Army base. According to SFGate:

“Even as the overall frequency of domestic abuse in the United States declined, levels of intimate partner violence within the post-9/11 military and veterans’ communities began to explode. Calls from people affiliated with the military more than tripled from 2006 to 2011. During roughly the same period at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, the number of soldiers charged with domestic violence surged, and domestic abuse in the Army skyrocketed as an increasing number of soldiers returned from lengthy, repeat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rates of PTSD began to rise.”  

Traumatic brain injuries are the suspected cause of the rise in domestic violence because it increases aggression and impulsive behavior in soldiers returning from war.

Bob McLaughlin, Mt. Carmel’s Chief Operating Officer spoke at the BTSADV grand opening letting the community know that Mt. Carmel is excited to collaborate with BTS. Mt. Carmel Service Center helps with transitional services for military personnel, with a special emphasis on veterans and their families. McLaughlin stated that before Kristen Faith came into his life, his focus was helping veterans with suicide and other issues veterans may face. Now that BTSADV has joined with Mt. Carmel, he wants to make sure to address domestic violence in the military and veterans to help both them and their families.

BTSADV and Mt. Carmel can both help veterans with their struggles from the trauma they have faced in combat. Awareness of domestic violence is the key to changing it. Not talking about it only continues the problem. BTSADV is here to stay in the Springs to help spread awareness and to help those who feel lost, that have suffered from domestic violence. BTSADV wants to show the community that there is hope and love after domestic violence and BTSADV is here to help them. With more awareness spread through the community, more survivors can receive help and start living their new life.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Breaking the Generational Curse

By Sunny Lim

Within domestic violence, there’s a term known as intergenerational or transgenerational violence. These terms indicate violence involving and affecting several generations within families.

Intergenerational violence occurs when abuse passes through the family, starting from the older generation–parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents–to the younger generation–children. Abuse tends to be a learned behavior. In the cycle of intergenerational violence, people who have been abused by their relatives or witnessed domestic violence in their household are more likely to continue the abuse they’ve suffered and observed. Because they might have seen one parent abuse the other parent, it normalizes abusive behavior by showing children this is an acceptable way to act toward your partner in a romantic relationship. Another example of intergenerational violence is when a grandparent physically abused their son, and the son goes on to do the same to his own children. Another consequence of the intergenerational curse is children might enter into relationships with abusive partners because these relationships mimic what these children saw at home.

Because intergenerational violence goes from one generation to another, it is difficult to break the curse. In addition to intergenerational abuse, the transmission of trauma, known as secondary traumatization, is where the effects of trauma trickles down from generation to generation. Although there is debate whether genetics play a role in the transmission of trauma across generations, a research study at Mount Sinai hospital discovered a possible link.

Rachel Yehuda and her team looked at the genes of 32 Jewish men and women who had been confined in concentration camps, hid, witnessed torture, or suffered violence. They also looked at the genes of their children. Compared to children of Jewish families who didn’t live in Europe during the war, the 32 research participants’ survivors had a higher chance of developing stress disorders. These research results support the idea of epigenetic inheritance. This idea asserts environmental factors–abuse, stress, nutrition–have the potential to affect the genes of future generations.

There have been research studies done on Native American survivors of boarding schools, abuse survivors, 9/11 survivors, and intergenerational domestic abuse survivors. All showed the same findings — if there is a history of abuse and trauma within a family or for an entire group historically, the trauma passes through the bloodline. Survivors tend to have higher rates of depression and are more likely to be susceptible to revictimization, suicidal thoughts, and adverse coping skills.

David Prosper is a husband and a father. He is also a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. His personal story of intergenerational trauma and surviving has led him to share his experiences to teach people about how to recognize abusive patterns, overcome trauma, and break the stigma of abuse on men.

David grew up in an abusive home, causing him to become desensitized to domestic violence.

“Sadly, I thought it was a way of life–I would see my mother hit, my father retaliate,” he said. “It led me into a lot of emotionally abusive relationships where the women I’d date would position themselves as the only ones who cared about me.”

During his senior year of college, he was sexually assaulted by a young woman, but his friends blew it off as no big deal after he chose to share his story with them. For David, the root cause behind intergenerational trauma was abandonment and rejection.  

He recommends these four steps for healing to other survivors of intergenerational trauma and violence:

  • Explore: Find the root causing your pain,
  • Engage: Talk with other survivors and share your story with counselors or life coaches,
  • Equip: Educate yourself with the tools to become healthier,
  • Empower:choose to become not just a survivor but a sur-thriver.

Although intergenerational trauma survivors are more susceptible to repeating behaviors they’ve seen in their childhood and adolescence, whether it’s being abusive in relationships or surviving abusive relationships themselves, you can break the generational curse. Even though the history of abuse and trauma might have started with your parents or your other relatives, you have the power to break free from this curse.

For intergenerational trauma survivors, take the first steps to healing, and examine your own family history to understand where it all started. You’re not alone in your healing.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

What is a Lethality Assessment?

By Rebecca Lynn

According to the NACDV, 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner. However, this percentage is created by the number of reports made to public records, which is thought to be mostly under-reported. Depending on the city, murder-suicides aren’t always recorded with specific information, such as the relationship or history of the murderer and the victim. This is because the abuser is no longer living, and criminal charges will not be filed on the killer. This makes it even more difficult to comprehend how many murder-suicides are linked to domestic violence accurately.

According to the Domestic Abuse Shelter of Florida Keys, of the total number of victims who are murdered by their abusers, 75 percent are killed while leaving or after the relationship has ended. This information is also frequently inaccurate and fails to specify if the victim was a part of a murder-suicide or a homicide by their abuser. Regardless, it can be easily assumed that the numbers are even higher.

The statistics are staggering, and they don’t stop there, according to The Washington Post, one third of the killers were known to be a threat ahead of the murder and in many cities, one third of the lethal abusers had a restraining order during the time of the homicide or were previously convicted of domestic violence. Police report that the most significant numbers of calls they receive are related to domestic violence. These numbers are all based on the fact that most abusive relationships are never reported.

So why don’t victims call and report their abuse? While each victim has their own reasons, some of the more common ones are:

  • “The police did not do anything when called and it made the situation worse.”
  • ” The police did not believe me.”
  • ” I was afraid of retaliation.”
  • ” I didn’t know it was that bad.”
  • ” I did not want CPS or the courts involved.”
  • ” I have kids and nowhere to go, or anyone to call.”

In one way or another, the victims were afraid of making the situation worse, had no resources for themselves or their children, and didn’t believe the abuse was severe because of how the response to their report was handled. Not only were the victims at risk of enduring more abuse, but they were in danger of losing their lives. There was a crucial need for first responders to be more educated and knowledgeable in resources when it came to domestic violence. The Lethality Assessment was created to help police and other professionals that work with victims to identify if the abuse had the potential to escalate to homicide.

What is a Lethality Assessment?

Lethality is best described as the capacity to cause death. Therefore a lethality assessment is an evaluation that predicts the likelihood of the abuser to murder the victim. The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) was based on the Danger Assessment, which was created by Dr. Campbell. Dr. Campbell created the assessment based on the evidence that there were many factors in a domestic violence relationship that were more dangerous than others, some were proven to be precursors of murder. She also realized that many victims did not know how much danger they really were in or how to get help. The Danger Assessment test contained 20 questions that a victim would answer to determine how much risk they were in based on experiences that occurred during their relationship.

The Lethality Assessment was initially created for law enforcement and was reduced to eleven questions. According to the Lethality Assessment Program, the LAP is a standardized, evidence-based tool that first responders can use not only to determine the level of danger, but also to provide victims with resources, advocates, information about domestic violence, and safety planning. Victims that show a high lethality risk are referred and connected directly with domestic violence organizations that can assist them. Since many victims are not aware of the real danger they are in, the assessment helps them recognize circumstances that make them more vulnerable. The LAP’s purpose is to prevent homicide, create a sense of trust in the police, and connect the victims directly with help, or provide resources if they are not ready for help.

According to the Domestic Violence Lethality Screen for First Responders, the 11 specially-designed questions are:

  1. Has your partner ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?
  2. Has he or she ever threatened to kill you or your children?
  3. Do you think he or she may try to kill you?
  4. Does your partner have a gun, or can he or she get one easily?
  5. Has he or she ever choked (strangled) you?
  6. Is your partner violently or constantly jealous, or does he or she control most of your daily activities?
  7. Have you left your partner or separated from them after living together or being married?
  8. Is he or she employed?
  9. Has your partner ever tried to kill him or herself?
  10. Do you have a child that he or she knows is not theirs?
  11. Does your partner follow or spy on you, or leave threatening messages?

According to Policeone.com, victims who were threatened with murder are 15 percent more likely to be murdered, and those who were threatened with a gun are 20 percent more likely to be killed. Abusers who own guns are five times more likely to murder their victim, whether they have threatened them or not.

Strangulation is often referred to as the “edge of homicide” and continues to be one of the best ways to gauge future lethality. The immediate and long term effects of non-fatal strangulation continue to be researched, taught to first responders, and are now treated as felonies in most states.

Do Lethality Assessments work? The Washington Post reports that one third of victims who spoke to a domestic violence counselor over the phone, with the assistance of a first responder, were more apt to seek help from a shelter, get a protective order, or call a hotline than those who did not. By first responders providing real-time support to the victim, they are able to connect the victim with resources while things are still hostile, and not days later when the victim and abuser are most likely in the honeymoon phase.

One of the most substantial barriers for victims to seek help is the amount of work and people they need to navigate through to get the help they need. Instead of spending a day going from government offices to domestic violence organizations, the victim is able to receive all the resources at the sight of the incident. The LAP program continues to improve its process, gain approval, and if done consistently, prevent homicide by predicting it.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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