A couple of days ago, I found myself thinking of Matt Houseal, an outstanding person that I had the opportunity to work with years ago. Today I did some research and realized that the day I started thinking of him was his birthday.
Among his many accomplishments was being the winter-over physician at Amundson-Scott South Pole Station. One day while we were at work we started discussing his experience in Antarctica and my desire to go there someday, and he immediately said he would see what he could do to get me down there for a season. That was the kind of guy he was- always helping others. I may have ended up going to the South Pole (even though I had already started having second thoughts), but he left for Iraq shortly after, and his life was tragically taken.
The link below gives a good overview of Matt's life, which was shorter than it should have been. We could use a few more Matts in the world.
Thank you for making 2016 yet another remarkable year for Family Support Services! This year marked our 108th year of serving people in crisis. Over the past year, our dedicated staff have done an incredible job at expanding outreach and strengthening our programs and services.
We have once again been able to increase the value of services delivered directly to those in need. Over the past year we have increased the value of services provided by 7%, and over the past three years, we have increased the value of services provided by a total of 35%, to a total of $2,939,000.
It’s been a year of amazing accomplishments across the board. We’ve built new community partnerships and put together innovative approaches that are eliminating barriers people have faced in accessing services. I’m immensely proud of the work that FSS staff and volunteers are doing to make FSS a force for good in the world.
2016 program highlights from the year include:
FSS is stronger than ever due to our community partners who come together to donate time, resources, and talent in support of our important mission. This year alone we worked with 400+ special events volunteers, our Mardi Gras Party and Harley Party fundraisers were able to bring in more money than ever to support our mission; and our Board of Directors helped us increase our donor base.
Thank you for being a part of the FSS movement. I could not be more excited about what’s in store for next year, and for the opportunity to work with all of you to make it happen. We are looking forward to much more in 2017!
Family Support Services
For those who are familiar with domestic violence, “Safety Plan” are very important; they are plans to help someone leave an abusive situation without suffering physical harm. Recently, the importance of developing an "emotional safety plan," which outlines ways to move forward from a violent past, has also been recognized.
After leaving an abusive partner, starting over in a new environment can bring relief, but also can be stressful and disorienting. People go through a period of shock, and they need time to adjust. Moving forward is different for everyone, and it is a lifetime journey.
Consider the following as you leave -or after you leave- an abusive partner as ways to protect your emotional and mental well-being.
Learn About Emotional Safety
Emotional safety means feeling accepted, according to the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health. Some survivors report that unrelenting psychological attacks are more damaging than a physical beating.
Try finding a place where you can feel emotionally safe, such as talking to a trained advocate at a domestic violence shelter or nonprofit about what you’re going through. Often, they can validate what you’re feeling and help you return to a more calm emotional state.
Make Sure You Take Care of Your Personal Trauma
The physical and emotional after-effects of abuse can interfere with a person’s ability to make a plan and put it into action. For instance, if someone has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s hard to develop an emotional safety plan if they haven’t dealt with that first.
People affected by trauma may wonder what’s wrong with them when they experience difficulty making plans or even trying to process what someone is saying. But impaired decision-making can be a symptom of PTSD. Screening for PTSD will ensure that if medical and/or psychological help is needed, you can get it.
You can also join a domestic violence support group. Peer support is one if the most effective ways to help with recovery.
Understand Your Mixed Feelings
A family can be relieved to get away from abuse and still miss the abuser they’ve left. Some people are still very much in love with their abusive partner, and finding their strength and worth apart from their partner is an ongoing process.
The desire for an intact family can be a powerful obstacle to leaving and staying apart from an abusive partner. A lot of people stay in relationships because they don’t want to separate the other parent from the children.
If kids talk about missing the other parent, it can make feelings of guilt and regret even stronger. But just as the parent who leaves an abusive partner can grapple with mixed feelings, so can the children. Peer support groups can help families see those mixed feelings as normal, while reinforcing the value of a safe environment.
Try to more about the trauma you’ve endured. Educating yourself on different types of domestic violence as well as tactics abusers use, some of which may have been used against you, can help you reach a place of understanding. Furthermore, learning about triggers that can send you back into a state of panic or anxiety can help you prepare better to deal with them when they arise.
Reach Out for Support, If Needed
To maintain control, many abusers isolate their partner from family and friends. After leaving, a survivor may feel alone. All survivors’ stories are different—you may relish in this sense of independence or your new solo journey may mean you start to feel emotionally unstable. If needed, this is the time to ask for support.
If you live in the Amarillo area, an FSS advocate can point the way to resources for medical and legal needs, transportation and other needs. Consider making a list of trusted people, even if you’ve lost touch. Think about old friends, family members, faith leaders, teachers or mentors. You may not reach or reconnect with everyone on your list, but you may be surprised at the people who can help. Think of each connection as a way to rebuild a web of support.
For more information about domestic violence and how to get out of an abusive relationship, call our main office at 806-342-2500 to speak with a crisis advocate, or our 24 hour Crisis Hotline at 806-374-5433.
At this very moment, Congress is in the process of considering cuts to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund. VOCA funding goes toward vital services to all crime victims and in particular to victims of domestic violence, victims of sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, theft, burglary, family members of murder victims, etc.
If VOCA funding is cut from the 2015 level, it will be devastating to programs that provide victim services across the U.S.; it will reduce the numbers of victims we serve, reduce staff, and possibly lead to the elimination of victim service programs.
FSS serves victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and family survivors of homicide through VOCA funded services such as shelter, rape crisis services, legal assistance, direct counseling, and more. Potter County, Randall County, and county/city governments all over Texas receive VOCA funds to fund victims advocates at prosecutors’ offices, law enforcement agencies, and other coordinated community responses to violence. And an important thing to remember is that VOCA is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not from tax dollars.
Congress is contemplating two decisions on VOCA funding:
The Texas Council on Family Violence, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, The National Council on Domestic Violence, and many, many more advocacy groups across the Nation agree that taking funds from VOCA for offset purposes sets a dangerous precedent for future raids and uses the money for a purpose outside of the federal law that collected VOCA money in the first place.
The local need for funding- Last year:
If you believe that VOCA funding cuts would be harmful, you can let your local U.S. Representative and Senator know. In the Texas Panhandle, they are:
You can also show support through social media if you choose to. Examples of how others are doing this are:
Serving victims and survivors of crime is a responsibility that we do not take lightly, and critical services to victims will be cut if VOCA funding is cut.
Family Support Services
After a traumatic experience, it's normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. But if these feelings don't fade and you feel stuck with a constant sense of danger and painful memories, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can seem like you'll never get over what happened or feel normal again. But by seeking treatment, reaching out for support, and developing new coping skills, you can overcome PTSD and move on with your life.
Most people associate PTSD with military personnel who have served in combat. Other persons at risk for developing PTSD include those who have experienced an overwhelming life experience, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
PTSD can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.
PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.
Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to:
Signs and symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:
Other common symptoms of PTSD include:
The most common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder is that there is no effective treatment. However, studies have shown that 80 percent of those persons suffering from PTSD , if given proper treatment, are without symptoms after five years.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has PTSD, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is confronted, the easier it is to overcome. If you’re reluctant to seek help, keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and the only way to overcome it is to confront what happened to you and learn to accept it as a part of your past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist
Types of Treatment for PTSD
Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy- Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD and trauma involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture. Family Support Services has counselors that specialize in TF-CBT.
Family Therapy- Since PTSD affects both you and those close to you, family therapy can be especially productive. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems caused by PTSD symptoms. Family Support Services has counselors that specialize in Family Therapy.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. Eye movements and other bilateral forms of stimulation are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress. Family Support Services has counselors that specialize in EDMR.
Animal Assisted Therapy, including equine therapy, has shown evidenced-based efficacy in patients including war veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders, and other chronic mental illnesses. Family Support Services currently offers equine therapy to families in our domestic violence shelter, Veterans and family members, and others who may benefit.
Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft are the medications most commonly used for PTSD. While antidepressants may help you feel less sad, worried, or on edge, they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
When looking for a therapist for PTSD, seek out mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. You can start by calling the FSS main office at 806-342-2500, or our crisis line at 806-374-5433, or toll free 800-749-9026.
You can also ask your doctor if he or she can provide a referral to therapists with experience treating trauma. You may also want to ask other trauma survivors for recommendations, or call a local mental health clinic, psychiatric hospital, or counseling center.
If you’re a Veteran suffering from PTSD, combat stress, or trauma, there are steps you can take to begin the recovery process and deal with your symptoms. The Veteran Resource Center offers Veterans, family members and surviving spouses with the opportunity to receive therapy as describe above, meet peers and engage in peer support-related activities, as well as many other supports.
The Amarillo VA Hospital and Vet Center are also valuable resources for local Veterans.
To Find Out More
Family Support Services of Amarillo
Creating a safety plan means figuring out how and when you’re going to leave, where you’re going to go and how to keep these details private from your abuser. The first step is to pack a bag that you can easily locate, retrieve or take with you when you leave. WomensLaw.org suggests the following things be included:
Items to Take When Leaving Abusive Relationship
Keep this bag in a place where the abuser cannot find it, such as at a trusted friend’s or neighbor’s house. Also, if you are able to, hide an extra set of car keys somewhere that you can easily access them, in case the abuser takes the car keys to prevent you from leaving. If you have pets and are worried about their safety, think about someone you trust who could take them before or when you leave. If you are escaping to a domestic violence shelter, some shelters (including the FSS domestic violence shelter) will house pets on site, or arrange for them to be cared for through a local kennel.
How to get out of your home safely
Practice different ways to get out if you have to leave in a hurry, or if you have to leave while your abusive partner is at home. DomesticViolence.org recommends also thinking about any weapons in the house and ways you could possibly get them out of the house before you leave. If you can leave when your abuser is not at home, this is the safest option. If you can’t, then think about alternative times to leave, such as when you’re taking out the trash, walking the family pet or going to the store. Again, practice these scenarios if possible.
Safety Plan: Location, Location, Location
Think about four places you could go. These may include the Family Support Services domestic violence shelter or a shelter near you, a trusted friend’s house that the abuser does not know the location of, or another safe location in a different city. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests that if a survivor has time after escaping the situation, they may consider creating a false trail. To do this, you can call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town that’s at least six hours away from where you’re planning to go. Ask questions that require these places to call you back at your house so that your abuser may believe this is where you’re going.
Abusers are intent on controlling survivor’s lives. When abusers feel a loss of control, such as when the abuser learns their victim is going to leave, the abuse can increase. This is why it’s especially important to take extreme cautions not only before you leave and during your escape, but also after leaving. Make sure you acquire a new cell phone so that your calls cannot be traced. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number to. If you haven’t already, secure a personal protection order. Consider changing your children’s schools and, if you can, change your work hours. If you’re staying in the same city, use different stores and frequent different social spots.
Finally, don’t hesitate to call 911 if you feel you are in danger at any point before, during or after you leave. You can find emotional support by calling Family Support Services on our 24 Hour Crisis Line at 806.374.5433, Spanish: 800-799-723, Toll Free 800.749.9026, or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Family Support Services
Note: Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Murders and Murder/Suicides involving Domestic Violence can be prevented through early intervention by law enforcement, social service agencies and the criminal justice system. However, in order to attain success there must be a goal of zero tolerance in the community. This requires that all elements of the community respond with a consistent, clear message that domestic violence is NOT tolerable.
Family Violence must be confronted on many fronts. Schools and agencies such as FSS must educate children and adults on the existence and danger of domestic violence; members of the clergy must send an unequivocal message from the pulpit that domestic violence is unacceptable; and neighbors, friends, and co-workers of domestic violence victims must be alert to the potential danger.
Even survivors of family violence who are reluctant to press charges due to lack of resources; emotional, physical, financial, or psychological can be assisted once they have been identified and removed from the hostile environment. Persons who abuse their partners are potentially dangerous and some are more likely to kill, especially when certain conditions exist. These conditions or indicators pose the potential to kill.
Below are a list of LETHALITY INDICATORS in domestic violence situations (These indicators are stated from the viewpoint that the male is the abuser and female is the victim. However, these indicators are valid in same-sex relationships or if the woman is the abuser). The more indicators present or the greater intensity of the indicators the greater the potential for Domestic Violence Homicide or Murder/Suicide.
1. "OWNERSHIP" OF THE BATTERED PARTNER
The batterer who states "You belong to me and will never belong to another!" or "If I can't have you nobody will!" may be stating his fundamental belief that his partner has no right to life separate from him. A batterer who believes he is absolutely entitled to a woman's services, obedience and loyalty, no matter what, may be life-endangering.
2. CENTRALITY OF THE PARTNER
A man who idolizes his partner, or who depends heavily on her to organize and sustain his life, or who has isolated himself from all other community, may retaliate against a partner who decides to end the relationship. He rationalizes that her "betrayal" justifies his lethal "retaliation."
Where a batterer has been acutely depressed and see little hope for moving beyond depression, he may be a candidate for homicide and suicide. Research shows that men with a history of abusive behavior who are hospitalized for depression have homicidal fantasies directed at family members.
4. REPEATED INTERVENTION BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
Partner or spousal homicide almost always occurs in a context of historical violence. Prior intervention by the police indicate elevated risk of life-threatening conduct.
5. ESCALATION OF RISK TAKING
A less obvious indicator of increasing danger may be the sharp escalation of personal risk undertaken by a batterer; when a batterer begins to act without regard to the legal or social consequences that previously constrained his violence. The chances of lethal assault increase significantly.
6. THREATS OF HOMICIDE OR SUICIDE
The batterer who has threatened to kill his (ex) partner, himself, the children or her relatives must be considered extremely dangerous.
7. FANTASIES OF HOMICIDE OR SUICIDE
The more the abuser has developed a about who, how, when and/or where to kill, the more dangerous he may be. The batterer who has previously acted out part of a homicide or suicide fantasy may be invested in killing as a "solution to his problems."
When an abuser possesses, collects, or is obsessed with weapons and/or has used them or has threatened to use them in the past in his assaults on women, the children or himself, increases his potential for lethal assault. If a batterer has a history of arson or the threat of arson, fire should be considered a weapon.
When a batterer believes that he is about to lose his (ex) partner or when he concludes that she is permanently leaving him; if he cannot envision life without her, this may be when he chooses to kill. That is not to say that all abusers kill when they conclude that their partner is separating from him. Some kill long before they have any idea that the victim may be thinking about leaving. So, it is not safe to assume that because she hasn't made plans to leave, that the batterer will not be dangerous. In one study of spousal homicide, over half the men were separated from their victims when they murdered them. Women are most likely to be murdered when attempting to report abuse or to leave an abusive relationship. Many times victims are killed after announcing to their partner they are leaving without a plan in place. Many victims of intimate partner violence believe that their abusive partners will be enraged – but not to the point where they will be killed.
10. HISTORY OF ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOR
An abuser who has demonstrated aggressive behavior to the general public such as bar fights, gang related violence, job related violence, vandalism, repeated unlawful behavior, abusiveness towards animals or illegal occupation is likely to be more dangerous.
A hostage-taker is at high risk of inflicting homicide. Between 75% and 90% of all hostage takings in the United States are related to domestic violence situations.
12. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Men with a history of problems with drugs and/or alcohol show a higher risk. In addition, regardless of their drug and/or alcohol history, intoxication at the time of the assault shows significant risk to partners.
13. VIOLENCE IN HIS FAMILY OF ORIGIN
The more severe the violence either experienced personally, or observed, in the family of origin, the more the risk.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, Family Support Services is here to help. Our Crisis Line is staffed 24 hours a day (806.374.5433: Spanish: 800-799-7233: Toll Free 800.749.9026). Our Domestic Violence Shelter is available for survivors who need to escape abusive situations.
For more information about available services or family violence, please call 806-342-2500 or visit our website at www.fss-ama.org
Family Support Services of Amarillo
Lethality Indicators compiled by Vernon J. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation, LAW and ORDER Magazine, Vol. 46 No. 112, November 1998, pp 51-54
In its more than 100 years of existence, Family Support Services of Amarillo has changed significantly as the world has changed. Change comes with both challenges and opportunities. Through the years the staff of FSS have learned much and changed as needed so that they could continue to help our families, friends, neighbors live better lives.
Below are a just a few highlights of challenges the FSS staff, board, and volunteers faced, and the goals they accomplished, in 2014:
We feel that the coming year will provide us with the opportunity to continue, as our Mission Statement says, to empower individuals and families through comprehensive advocacy, education, and intervention services. This means more conversations and partnerships to address some of the pressing social issues of our day, expansion of our Veteran Resource Center services, and other ways to fill the gaps in service in our community. We face big issues and challenges, but we also have big ideas, enthusiastic supporters, and experienced, passionate staff.
So on behalf of the people we serve, we would like to thank you for all that you have done for them. None of the accomplishments described above would have been possible without the support of all of you who have supported our vision: A community where individuals and families are healthy, stable, and violence-free.
Executive Director of Family Support Services of Amarillo
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