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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Vector illustration with ribbon on white background

PRESTONSBURG – In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, based out of Floyd County, reached out to the Independent recently to share information about their very important and free services available to the community.

Turning Point is an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, serving women, men, and families in Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Pike and Floyd counties.

Connie Cheek Little, the executive director of Turning Point, explained that they provide safe housing, state-certified domestic violence advocates, a children’s advocate, help with legal referrals, assistance with protective orders, medical and substance abuse referrals, and safety planning, offering a 24/7 crisis line for anyone who needs help, may know someone who they fear is in a domestic violence situation, or just needs to talk.

At any given time, they may have 20 people housed at their facility, annually serving an average of 200 women and 85 children each year.

“We get thousands of calls a year on our crisis line,” Little said. “Some people just need to talk or may not be ready to actually leave the situation. We do a lot of safety planning in the shelter and for the people calling, whether they’re staying or leaving, we want to help keep them safe.”

Little also noted that the Turning Point center is extremely secured, with state-of-the-art security systems in place to keep the clients staying there safe.

“We have steps in place to keep the bad guys away and our local police are just wonderful,” Little said. “Safety is our main concern.”

The statistics show that is a valid worry.

“In the Commonwealth, 17 women across the state lost their lives last year to domestic violence,” Little told the Independent.

The children’s advocate works with the children in age-appropriate groups to do arts and crafts, as well as help to deal with the trauma they are going through.

“Children witness a lot, and they definitely need that group support,” Little said. “The children’s advocate helps them prepare for school and school readiness, helps with homework, and even helps the mom with scheduling any appointments for the kids. Kids are resilient, but it impacts them, and they tend to have problems in school.”

Little said they often see clients in the shelter who were there with their mothers, emphasizing the need to help these families find a way to break the cycle.

“We’re there to serve, so we will help them with legal referrals, help with any medical needs they may have, and work with substance abuse services to make referrals,” Little said.

For people in the area reading this and are ready to leave a domestic violence situation, Little said they advise them to call the local police to assist them in getting out.

“Typically, women will leave when they see a moment of opportunity, like when the abuser goes to work or leaves for the day,” Little said. “Contact a person you trust or the police. They bring people to us all the time.”

Little said they also have a court advocate that will transport people to court hearings and be there for them during the hearings.

“It can be a confusing and stressful time, but they don’t have to go alone and they’ll have that support with them in the courtroom,” Little said.

Turning Point also has a residential case manager, who helps clients get necessary documents (IDs, birth certificates, etc.), help track down applications and find housing.

“Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s different case-by-case,” Little said. “Some women want to leave the state to be closer to family. We’ve helped a woman go as far as Australia to get her home. We’ve sent one to California. It’s just whatever they need to get somewhere they have some support.”

Little said often people in domestic violence feel like they have no hope, isolated from family and friends, financially dependent on their abuser, etc., but she said they are there to help provide hope.

“Think about women without any education, no money, no vehicle, have a couple of kids with the man, and they can’t see any hope at the end, so they stay or continually go back, but we try to retrain their thinking,” Little said. “There is hope. It’s up to them, but we have never turned anyone away. We do a lot of counseling and don’t judge. It’s whatever they decide, but we’ll always help them.”

The shelter first opened in 1985 and has been called Turning Point since 2015, with a board of directors watching over the nonprofit and a new location. With completely free services for those in need, the shelter operates on grants and donations from the community.

While always needed, Little said the center has seen a larger need in the region for their services.

“Calls have definitely increased, with the trauma of the pandemic causing an uptick in domestic violence cases,” Little said. “Victims are more afraid to leave home, thinking they may catch the virus at the shelter, or maybe feeling even less financially secure. The pandemic has really caused an increase all across the state, but they feel trapped and feel like they can’t get away. We’re still keeping our beds pretty full, though.”

Little also noted that school staff often catch domestic violence situations involving students, but they’ve not had as much opportunity between quarantines and school scheduling being affected by COVID case numbers.

“A lot of people think it’s just a family problem and they need to work it out, but that’s not the case,” Little said. “It’s a problem of control and abuse by the perpetrator. It has nothing to do with a family problem. Domestic violence is all about power and control 100% of the time.”

Little said that if someone thinks there are some red flags and they may be in an abusive situation, or if someone knows someone else who is, in either situation they should call the hotline to talk to an advocate.

“See what your options of solutions and alternatives are, or just talk,” Little said. “We always say, ‘love doesn’t have to hurt.’ There are still people that think that’s nonsense. They think everyone has their fights or arguments, but it’s total control and abuse.”

Little reminded the community that there are several types of abuse, noting sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, as well as physical abuse. She explained that married women can still be victims of rape by their husbands if they’ve not consented to the actions.

“We had a case where a man would unhook the woman’s car battery so she couldn’t leave, which escalated to him putting her in a building out back and locking her up when he would leave,” Little said. “We had a couple where they both had children and the man would lock the refrigerator where her children’s food would be, but his children could eat anytime. Sometimes it takes going back a couple times before they’re ready to leave for good. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and we’ve heard everything. We believe in people speaking up and speaking out and intervention when possible. We really care about them and want them to start a better and new life. There’s always hope.”

The Turning Point Domestic Violence Services’ toll free 24-hour crisis line is available at 1-800-649-6605 or by calling 1-606-886-6025. People can also text an advocate at 1-606-792-2291. Turning Point can also be found on Facebook.

Turning Point is a nonprofit 501c3, multicultural, community-based organization dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from domestic and interpersonal violence. To achieve this mission, the agency manages five departments delivering services of emergency, intervention, prevention, education and advocacy. The center serves the Big Sandy Area Development District and clients can refer themselves or be referred by local law enforcement or community agencies. Services are provided to everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or marital status. Turning Point Domestic Violence Services is a member of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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