It can be tough emotionally and logistically to leave an abusive relationship, but local domestic violence and sexual assault advocates say there is help.
Through Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy, or DVSAVA, victims could be eligible for funding through a grant for relocation or transportation, a cell phone for communication, and vouchers to Deseret Industries for clothing and other necessities, said Jaqueline Motley, crisis line coordinator of the group.
Transitional housing, housing grants and even emergency food and supplies may also be available, she said.
Additionally, workers in the group can help victims with protective orders, reparation claims and other court paperwork, she said, though they are prohibited from giving legal advice.
Motley said the grants and other resources help make leaving a bad situation possible for victims who often do not have those amenities independently.
“In my experience, people don’t leave because they don’t have resources. Usually they depend so much on the other person that they don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “If they make the decision to leave, we can help them move into another place. Since we work with other agencies so close sometimes, we’re able to put them in another shelter or get transitional housing. But what I’ve seen is that’s often an issue—they don’t have anyplace to go.”
Lynn Smith, domestic violence advocate for Tooele City, said she believes one of the biggest challenges with relocating victims in the area is a shortage of transitional housing. A shelter is available, but moving victims and sometimes families out of the shelter and into transitional or permanent housing can be challenging because of a lack of space and later, often a lack of income.
Smith said one of the hallmarks of domestic violence, itself a weapon of power and control, is that the victims often do not have access to the family’s finances and have little or no money of his or her own. Victims also are seldom allowed to get an education or work, making it hard in many cases to find jobs higher than entry level and paying more than minimum wage.
“The ones who have made the transition the easiest have had a degree, some kind of marketable skill,” Smith said. “It’s so hard to make enough to support a family on minimum wage.”
While a lack of education and experience can be another hurdle—Smith said she strongly recommends all young people get some kind of education or qualification, regardless of their life plans—it, too, can be overcome, she said.
Smith said she sees an average of about 350 domestic violence cases per year, though so far that number is lower than usual. Of those cases, she said, an estimated 90 percent are women, and the rest are men. Smith said she believes domestic violence against men is underreported for a variety of reasons, including a stigma against admitting abuse, but is real all the same.
The resources, however, she said, are available to victims regardless of gender.
The shelter is located in an undisclosed location for security purposes, but victims can contact the shelter at 435-843-1645. If no one answers at that number, victims may secondarily try 435-843-1677, and if there is still no answer, victims may call 435-224-2710.
If a victim has not before contacted a victim advocate, Smith said, one will be assigned to them to help with things like paperwork, such as protective orders or child custody papers.
There is help for people outside of the Tooele area, as well, Motley said. DVSAVA recently started making bimonthly trips to Wendover to help victims from the western part of the county.
Motley said in Wendover in particular, there has historically been a language barrier, since many residents predominantly speak Spanish, and DVSAVA works closely with police, community leaders and religious leaders. She said there are now increased resources also for victims in more remote areas of the county, including gas cards and an agreement with a local taxi service to help transport victims all across the county, including in Tooele and from Skull Valley.
“Now we are able to go twice a month to Wendover and help victims who don’t have any assistance, who don’t speak the language, and we’re able to get people into transitional housing,” said Motley. “We were never before able to do that.”
Motley said there are other resources and help for victims, too, even in areas such as creditors, landlords and others. Many, she said, will help victims meet their obligations or give them more time if they are aware of their situation.
“There is help,” Motley said. “We’re a small county but we have plenty of resources and people concerned about their safety.”
Smith said regardless of a victim’s choices throughout the process, whether they choose to leave their abuser or remain at home, part of the advocates’ mission is to remain supportive no matter what.
“Our doors are open. We’re not going to judge them because they haven’t left their abuser,” she said. “This isn’t an easy thing. When I talk to people in my office, I have to tell them, this takes ultimate power. You just have to dig deep in yourself and find that power.”