Of the Baker City Herald

A system that doesnt help only adds further hurt to domestic violence victims whove already endured physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of their batterers.

That was the message that participants in a domestic violence simulation demonstration learned firsthand last week.

Titled In Her Shoes, the training placed the participants, who came from social service agencies and child and adult advocacy organizations, in the shoes of real-life domestic violence victims. A victim and a silent witness were paired for the exercise. As they traveled from station to station, participants gained a better understanding for the frustration, confusion and sense of betrayal victims experience.

Many felt that the choices offered to their characters were no help at all.

They could call the police, but might be arrested themselves, depending on who officers found the most believable; they could seek medical help, knowing that doctors and nurses would ask embarrassing questions that could also lead to police intervention; they could try to seek safety at a shelter, if there was an available slot; or they could talk to a friend, who might not want to take sides in their personal problems.

The training was sponsored by the Baker County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program and MayDay, Baker Countys support program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

People seemed to get a strong, clear message about how when a woman is living in violence, her choices and options may be different than what we can see, said Tamara Fulwyler, CASA director.

About 25 people 24 women and one man attended the training, which was offered Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at the Department of Human Services conference room at the Baker Tower.

Liz Estabrooks, a community advocate, helped facilitate the training.

She urged participants to avoid blaming the victims for their circumstances.

When what we do blames the victim, were hurting them, she said.

She noted that domestic violence is about power and control, spurred by physical, verbal and emotional abuse, social isolation and manipulation of finances and children.

Estabrooks told participants they could help friends or family members they suspect may be victims of abuse with these words:

oIm concerned about your safety and the safety of your children.

oNo one deserves to be hit. It is not your fault. I can go with you to get help.

oLets talk about a safety plan. I will help.

Fear is an overwhelming piece, Estabrooks said. Theyre afraid to leave and afraid to stay.

But many times, victims do not have a choice.

If a shelter is full and you have no access to money ... what are you going to do? Where are you going to go? she asked. Youre going to go home.

The cycle of abuse usually does not begin on the first date, Estabrooks said. But, its not uncommon for the first blow to be struck on the wedding night, she added.

Fulwyler compared what happens to domestic violence victims to the way a frog reacts in a pot of water.

Drop a frog into boiling water and it will get out, she said. No one would put up with that.

But if the frog is placed in water that is heated to boiling, there is a different outcome.

It cooks, it stews and it dies, she said.

The mental abuse inflicted on domestic violence victims has a similar effect, according to the advocates.

It slowly kills the spirit, Fulwyler said.