CALEXICO — The fifth annual Domestic Violence Awareness Forum returned Wednesday evening to provide resources to those affected by domestic violence in the community.
The event, held in commemoration of the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is presented by Soroptomist International of Calexico with six participating agencies.
“We hope that people come to this and find information because a lot that come don’t need the resources but can pass it along to help others,” Soroptimist President Marty Guillen said.
Speakers included both actual victims of domestic violence as well as representatives from a wide variety of programs helping victims including the SURE Helpline Crisis Center and Project Juntos.
Keynote speaker and Center for Family Solutions client advocate assistant Luz Eva Hill discussed her own experience as a victim of domestic violence as well as the importance of seeking out education on resources available for victims.
She said it’s often a problem kept secret as abusers continually promise not to repeat the abuse. She decided to leave her abusive relationship when the abuse moved to her son but soon encountered an “overwhelming” legal process in dealing with the situation.
“When you’re going through this, you’re not thinking of legalities,” she said. “Walking away is the hardest thing but it does get better … it may seem hard with the hurdles in the way but it does get better.”
Calexico Police Chief Jim Neujahr discussed what issues usually lead up to domestic violence including financial stress or substance abuse as well as the criminal justice system’s role in the situation.
“This is such a huge problem, not just for our community, but a nationwide problem,” he said
It is often a learned practice passed down through generations, he added, and affects the whole family. Authorities respond to even the most minor incident since it often escalates to deadly levels.
Other agencies represented at the forum included the Family Justice Center, which hosts regular focus groups for battered men and women.
“A lot of time you feel really lonely in that abusive relationship and don’t know where to go,” Family Justice Center volunteer and domestic violence survivor Norma Vandergriff said.
Victims still frequently feel that loneliness after leaving the relationship, she explained, and focus groups like the one at the Family Justice Center can provide a unique place of understanding from others who have been in that situation.
“As long as you take that first step (of leaving the abusive relationship) you’ll find so many agencies out there to help,” said Hortencia Armendariz of the Family Resource Center.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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