Johnson County fights domestic violence
October is domestic violence awareness month and Johnson County has its own ally in the fight against this abuse that can cause a lifetime of psychological damage.
Located in Joshua, the Family Crisis Center aids in the shelter, education and recovery of domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
“The Family Crisis Center was formed in 1983 by a group of volunteers who felt there was a need in the community for family violence intervention,” said Jerri Vaughn, executive director of the center. “They ran it out of their own homes with their own funds. They rented a home for the first shelter and also had a storefront on Caddo Street where they started doing peer counseling.”
In 1996, DeAnne Derrick joined the center and applied for funding to help victims. Currently, the center has 17 full- and part-time employees.
The need for the Family Crisis Center is huge in Johnson County, Derrick said. The center received more than 1,000 calls in 2016. The same year, the center provided emergency shelter and therapeutic counseling to 188 children and 861 adult victims, and staff provided 155 education programs in the community.
“We know that family violence and sexual assault are two of the most under-reported crimes,” Derrick said. “So if that many calls are coming in to seek assistance from law enforcement, how many calls aren’t coming in?”
Though people may think that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are limited to women, that isn’t always the case, Derrick said.
“We help men, women and children,” Derrick said. “It’s not just women we help. A lot of them (men) have grown up in domestic violence situations so they are certainly eligible for our services as long as they are not the perpetrator. We also have a lot of men in our outreach program who come for classes.”
The center offers free counseling, parenting classes, domestic violence awareness classes and also has a school outreach program.
Family violence and sexual assault do not discriminate when it comes to race or socio-economic class, Derrick said.
“Family violence knows no boundaries,” Derrick said. “You can tell by our numbers, a lot of clients we see here are children that are molested in their homes – children that are experiencing family violence. We want to stop the cycle.”
Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, Derrick said, adding the center has classes to help clients learn more about their history of abuse and how it correlates with their current situation.
“For example, we had a lady we were talking to in our life skills class and she talked about how she was molested by her brother growing up, and that she also had been sexually assaulted a few times as an adult, but she was convinced that had it nothing to do with her meth addiction,” Derrick said.
One way abusers keep their victims tethered to them is by forcing the victim to use drugs, thus becoming addicted and relying on the abuser to get their fix, Derrick explained.
“We’ve seen a lot of trends in drug use over the years,” Derrick said. “If they can get them addicted, that is more power and control they have over their victim. We’ve had women tell us that they were forcibly shot up with drugs by their abusers.”
Derrick said that when she first started at the Center, she saw a lot of women addicted to meth. Now that the government has clamped down on chemicals used to make meth, she sees more addiction to pain pills.
“They can get this from their doctors,” Derrick said. “It’s very easy for them to get ahold of pills.”
The cycle of abuse stops when children are educated about domestic violence, Vaughn said. The center routinely does outreach programs in local schools and educates teachers and school counselors on what to look for in a child who may be experiencing abuse at home.
“If we can stop the violence with the kids, they don’t ever have to go through that,” Vaughn said.
For victims of domestic violence, help can be found by calling the Center’s hotline. Thanks to technology, the center also provides counseling sessions via internet apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
“Everyone has a smart phone now,” Vaughn said. “These types of counseling sessions are perfect for those who can’t get to the shelter immediately.”
If you or someone you know is a experiencing domestic violence, call the Family Crisis Center helpline at (800) 848-3206 or visit www.familycrisisjc.org.