2017-04-09 / Insight

LACADA offers resources to help victims begin recovery

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 •

LAPEER — April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and while that certainly includes situations where a child is physically or emotionally abused, it can also refer to trauma that comes as a result of seeing a parent being abused. One in four women experience domestic violence, and Lapeer County conforms with that average.

Often, children entering Lapeer Area Citizens Against Domestic Abuse’s (LACADA) shelter with a mother who has been the victim of domestic abuse have left their familiar surroundings and comforting belongings at home and can be very confused and uncertain, and it is LACADA’s goal to work tirelessly to assist the children and their families to adjust to their new environment.

“We consider domestic abuse to be what we refer to as ‘intimate partner violence’,” said LACADA Program Director Heather Dhooghe. “When kids experience violence it’s likely as a witness.”

LACADA employs a youth outreach specialist to help children in situations where domestic violence occurs learn ways to “break the cycle.” The youth outreach specialist holds a weekly support group to share methods with children on healthy ways to communicate and display emotion, how to call 9-1-1 and seek out safe places in the event one is necessary. “About 100 kids a year come through our shelter,” said Dhooghe. “We try to teach those ways of healthy communication and healthy relationships to show the kids there are better ways to handle emotions.” LACADA also provides children with assistance in school enrollment, safety planning, family recreation and special event celebrations. Dhooghe acknowledges that violence is often cyclical but the tendency toward violent behavior isn’t always determined by environment. “Domestic violence is a choice,” said Dhooghe. “It’s a choice to respond the way (abusers) do.”

While LACADA has been in operation for 20 years, Dhooghe says one of the most significant challenges the organization faces is informing the public that their services are available. “One of the hardest things we do here is get the word out,” she said. “We’ve been here 20 years but we still have families tell us all the time they had no idea we were here.” To help share information with the community, LACADA employs an outreach advocate, who posts flyers and posters and is involved in community school outreach.

Through the school outreach, LACADA hopes to share information with students about the truth regarding healthy relationships. As students get older and enter into an age where they begin dating, it’s important for students to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and recognize potentially abusive behavior before it becomes too severe. Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that one partner uses to gain power and control over the other partner, and such behavior can be widespread among teens, who often do not report dating violence occurring out of fear.

According to LACADA’s website, a 2013 survey found approximately 10 percent of high school students reported physical victimization and 10 percent reported sexual victimization from a dating partner. LACADA hopes to increase their reach and share their message with more schools in the area in the future to help support victims of dating violence find the courage to speak out against being victimized.

LACADA may be reached weekdays at 810-667-4193 or on Facebook. A 24-hour hotline is available at 810-667- 4175.

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