Victims of domestic violence have new resource for help

LofferTwenty years ago Teresa Loffer lived in the crisis of domestic violence.

Her husband, Russ, repeatedly attacked her and put her in the hospital three times over the course of a year.

On one occasion she ran screaming from the house to the local hospital after being beaten, and the police arrested her husband.

?Then I told the prosecutor I had lied about it all because I didn?t want my husband to get in trouble,? Loffer said, because he told her he was ?so sorry? about the attack.

She said the prosecutor knew Loffer was lying about the attack but couldn?t do anything to remedy the situation.

DixonFinally, when Loffer was ready to escape that volatile relationship, she said, a domestic violence advocate from Newton provided support and resources she needed to leave. Her ex-husband has since died, and after much counseling and healing, Loffer said she?s now in a marriage that is healthy and safe.

?I?m not saying it was a cake walk,? Loffer said, ?but I think there is counseling that needs to be done for the victim (of domestic violence).?

Loffer, who lives in Linds?borg, recently was hired as the new rural advocate for the McPherson/Marion counties? satellite office of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center in Hutchinson. She has worked for the Lindsborg Emergency Medical Service for 15 years as well as served on the state board for the National Organiza?tion for Women, advocating for women?s issues.

?I had to deal with my own stuff to be able to be OK today,? Loffer said. ?But the story isn?t about me, it?s about others now.?

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement agencies in Marion County reported 48 cases of domestic violence, stalking and rape in 2011, which resulted in 29 arrests.

Accredited assistance

The SADV in Hutchinson provides services in Reno, Marion, McPherson, Rice, Kingman and Harper counties that are accredited by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, located in Topeka, which has programs serving all 105 counties in Kansas.

The Hutchinson agency, like others statewide, is funded independently through federal grants distributed to the state, funding from municipal and county governments and fundraisers, said Candace Anderson Dixon, SADV executive director.

?We apply each year for renewal of the grants,? Dixon said. ?We include Marion County in our request.?

About five years ago, Dixon said, the Hutchinson agency received permission to provide all SADV services in Marion County.

?If anybody called, we would come,? she said. ?If anybody needed assistance, we?d come.?

Now more emphasis will be given to provide services in McPherson and Marion counties.

?When I hired Teresa, I made it clear to her that McPherson/ Marion was going to be a priority,? she said about Loffer?s appointment. ?We needed to be doing much more than we have been.?

Loffer, whose main office is located in McPherson, will make regular visits to Marion County to deliver services and raise awareness of services provided by SADV.

The county courthouse has a couple of meeting rooms that can be used when needed, Loffer said, including a conference and library room on the second floor above the district attorney?s office.

?Anytime the room is available at the courthouse, I?ll get to use it,? she said. ?And I?ve been told there are rooms available at the new sheriff?s office.?

Loffer said she?s also spoken with both the Marion and Hillsboro police departments.

?I don?t think they?d have any problem with me coming in there with somebody,? she added.

Support services

Court advocacy is one of the primary supports for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, Loffer said. Trained staff accompany victims through medical exams, police questioning and court appearances.

?We assist people needing a protection from abuse order or a protection from stalking order,? she said, ?and then we walk with them through the court system. Every time they have a hearing, we?re with them.?

Loffer helps her clients know about the processes involved.

?One thing I need to tell you is we don?t give legal advice,? she said about her role as an advocate. ?But we do have the authority to help them with their PFA paperwork.?

PFA paperwork often has multiple pages and can be confusing, she said.

Loffer also provides personal advocacy for clients who may have special needs such as finding a place to live or requiring medical or legal help.

?So I would advocate for them,? she said. ?I?d give them resources.?

Crisis hotline

One important service available is the 24-hour crisis hotline where abuse and sexual assault victims can call for help or request information. That crisis hotline number is 1-800-701-3630.

?What we prefer to happen is those calls go to that crisis line,? Dixon said. ?That number is answered 24 hours a day.?

If someone calls from Marion County, Dixon said, Loffer will be notified, and she can either respond right then or at least talk to the woman and make arrangements to meet later in a safe place.

?People who call the hotline can remain anonymous,? Loffer said. ?Say they are struggling with a rape that happened to them, but they aren?t sure about giving their name or they don?t know if they want to go to court, and they just want information or they just want to talk to somebody.?

In any case, Dixon said, the victim needs to call personally.

?She needs to call us,? she said. ?We need to hear from her directly because we don?t know what pressure is being put on her by a friend or someone.?

Loffer and other SADV staff also go out for emergency response to attacks and rape.

?We go out on those calls,? Loffer said. ?We go with them to the hospital.?

Notification of emergencies often comes from police or hospital staff, Loffer said, but somebody who is raped does not have to report to the police.

?It depends on them,? she added.

Other assistance

The SADV Center also has a Spanish language advocate, who is based in Hutchinson.

?She will respond for situations requiring that anywhere in our counties,? Loffer said.

Other services available to Marion County residents include a private, safe shelter for women and children located in Hutchinson.

?We don?t give that information out,? Loffer said, ?but it is available for people who qualify. They have to be in a victim status. They can?t just be homeless.?

SADV services are also provided for men, if needed.

?Now, we don?t get a lot of men,? Dixon said. ?The men who come are coming for protection or stalking orders. The number (of men) who come seeking other advocacy services is pretty small.?

Loffer, Dixon and other staff are available to promote awareness and give presentations to civic organizations, schools and other groups.

?We really would encourage any local organizations that are looking for programs to contact us,? Dixon said. ?We?d love to come out and share what we do.?

Loffer said she understands the complexities victims face in abusive relationships, and the difficulties in leaving for good.

?I don?t care how many times they go back,? she said. ?They are always welcome in my office.?

For more information about sexual assault and domestic violence services available to residents of Marion County, contact Teresa Loffer at 620-241-6615. Her office is 122 W. Marlin, Suite 208, in McPherson.

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