Groups working together to stop all abuse
Domestic abuse is not only a personal tragedy; it is a serious crime that negatively affects women, men, children, neighborhoods and communities.
Working toward helping end this abuse is CADA of Faribault County Program Coordinator, Deb Wiederhoft. She has served the area in this outreach program, the Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA), for the past 19 years.
Violence or abuse can be physical, mental, sexual, verbal, emotional, and/or financial. It can include slaps, punches, choking, beating with a weapon, forced sexual acts and systematic destruction of a person’s self-worth. Abuse also includes harassment and threats.
Presently, Wiederhoft says she is seeing an increase in verbal, mental and emotional cases. This is due, in part, she says because of the economy and the stress it has caused in relationships.
However, any person may experience violence or abuse at some time in their lives. It cuts across all economic levels, educational backgrounds, ethnic, racial and affectional preference lines. It happens to people who are legally married, separated, living with or involved in a relationship with a partner. Basically, it can happen to anyone and at any age.
Last year, Wiederhoft served 115 victims, 13 of which were males. She also helped 132 children.
“The majority of what I deal with are all person crimes,” she says. “This is where you would have a victim crime involving domestic assault, physical assault, terroristic threats or sex crimes.”
She says a crime does not have to be committed in order for her to be contacted or to work with a victim.
“I will do whatever a person needs,” says Wiederhoft. “My job is to advocate for the victims of domestic violence or abuse.”
Wiederhoft, a victim of domestic abuse herself, earned a degree in law enforcement and corrections from Minnesota State University-Mankato in 1997. From 1991-1997, she worked voluntarily assisting those who had been abused. In 1991, she was hired by CADA and has served as the county coordinator ever since.
“Having been a victim is beneficial, because I know what they (victims) are going through,” she says. “They open up better to me.”
On the average, Wiederhoft says it takes seven incidents to occur before a victim will leave their abusive relationship. The same dynamics are true for male victims as they are for female victims.
Her job is emotionally draining as well as dangerous, but she is available 24/7 for anyone seeking advice, shelter or whatever their need may be. She often gets referrals from pastors, doctors and schools regarding vulnerable or abusive situations.
Among her specific duties are to assist with restraining orders; track all civil and criminal cases; review safety plans (depending upon the need of the victim); providing transportation to a safe shelter; and getting the victims in touch with human services. She also does training/informational sessions with law enforcement personnel and promotes community awareness concerning domestic abuse to church groups or any other group that might wish to learn more about the topic.
Through the years Wiederhoft has seen much change in the handling of domestic violence and abuse situations. The biggest one she says is within the criminal justice system itself. She says law enforcement is much more open to being trained. This is true of court personnel and prosecutors as well, since they are becoming better prepared in handling domestic violence issues and working with victim advocates.
“We really have a good system in Faribault County,” she says.
To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.