By Alan Sorensen
Notice people walking around Havre recently with little purple ribbons on their lapels, sweaters, shirts or blouses?
Those ribbons were distributed by the Domestic Abuse Program at HRDC as a means of increasing the awareness of the public health problem of domestic violence. Everyone in north central Montana is invited to participate during the remainder of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Roxanne Ross, director of domestic violence, said the Purple Ribbon Project is a nonprofit education and awareness effort dedicated to reducing violence in our society, our communities, our schools, and most importantly, our homes.
Please make it your business to report to law enforcement when you have witnessed family violence, Ross said. The Domestic Violence program works hand-in-hand with the police department to fight this community problem. The victims and their children, who are also victimized, need your help.
Capt. Mark Stolen said the Havre Police Department has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to domestic violence at any level. The departments officers are trained to identify and respond to domestic disturbances at any level, from psychological to verbal to physical.
When we talk about domestic violence, we know it is here in our community because regularly we handle the calls, Stolen said, and it is one of the priorities, from the chief to the newest patrolman, to remove it from our community.
Ross asks that people wear the ribbons and tell friends or strangers who ask about the ribbons that they, the wearers, are working to reduce violence.
Tell them you are highlighting the presence of violence in our lives and its effects on our society, Ross said. Let them know that the purple color of the ribbon represents the survivors of domestic violence an perhaps the color of the bruises which may have covered their bodies at one time.
Ross said the ribbons are also tributes to the women who have died as a result of domestic violence.
Stolen asks that anyone having knowledge or a strong suspicion of domestic violence to call the police department immediately at 265-4361. That call gets all the wheels turning, he said.
When officers know there is a domestic violence victim, they start the calls that activate the domestic violence program staff, Stolen said.
Ross agrees that referrals, from other agencies as well as police, are key to the response of domestic violence personnel.
Immediately, an advocate is assigned to the case and initiates contact with victims, she said. The advocate explains their rights and remedies and answers all questions they may have.
The advocate also assists with photos, statements, and accompanies victims to appointments and meetings.
This advocacy is absolutely confidential which protects the victims in many ways, Ross said. The advocate explains options and will work to ensure their lives are restored to normal as much as it can.
Advocates also work to keep the victims and their children in their homes by assisting with orders of protection and other needs.
The offender may have chosen violence, and for that he will suffer the consequences. But there is no reason the victims and children should have to be punished, Ross said.
The professional staff in the Domestic Abuse program is dedicated to helping the victims and children of crime, she said, and we encourage everyone to make it their business.
Ross spoke about domestic violence awareness at a Networking luncheon in Chinook this week and is available to speak with clubs, organizations and agencies on request.
To contact the Domestic Abuse Program at District IV HRDC, call 265-6743 or toll-free at 1-800-640-6743 or call the 24-hour Crisis Line at 265-2222.