Local group works to end violence in Alpine County
August 8, 2013
The name over the door says it all: "Live Violence Free." Formerly the Alpine County Women's Center, this nonprofit group changed its name a year ago to emphasize its dedication to all victims of violence — male and female, young and old.
"One in six men have been sexually assaulted, versus one in four for women — and that's just the numbers that are actually reported," noted Heather Knox, the Alpine coordinator for the nonprofit group Live Violence Free. "Violence is an equal-opportunity crime. It doesn't matter what your age or income level is, or where you live. Our mission is working to end all violence."
For survivors of domestic battery, sexual assault, and child abuse, Live Violence Free offers a broad range of assistance. "We have a 24-hour hotline, if people just want to talk. We offer individual counseling. We offer emotional support and options to survivors, whether they're still in the relationship or not," explained Knox. "And we have emergency shelter available, when that is needed."
Challenges for those in Alpine County wishing to leave an abusive relationship can include lack of transportation, lack of employment, and lack of child care, said Knox. "This is such a small, rural community, it can be frustrating," she noted. "For people who want to make a change but feel stuck, we are able to help with employment options and finding a place to live."
The light and airy LVF Center is also well-stocked with clothing, emergency food supplies, and hygiene products. "Survivors often leave with nothing," Knox said. "If they have pets, we have 'foster pet families' who can take animals on an emergency basis, so the survivor doesn't have to worry about their pet."
Knox knows the trauma of domestic violence first-hand. "I'm a survivor myself. I almost died – my abuser tried to kill me," she said. "I was banging on my neighbor's door, trying to get away from him, and they said 'We don't want to get involved.' He came out and dragged me back inside. I know how alone you can feel."
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Knox found help through agencies like LVF that work to assist survivors – and is grateful she now can "pay it forward" by helping others facing similar difficulties. She emphasizes the need to be non-judgmental. "We never tell people what they should or shouldn't do," Knox added. "And we take our duty of confidentiality extremely seriously."
For those who find themself in a difficult relationship, Knox cautions that violence can flare "whenever there's increased stress – during the holidays, when finances are difficult, or when there's work-related stress." And for people concerned about a family member or friend who might be enmeshed in a harmful relationship, Knox has this advice: "Acknowledge what they're saying. Express concern. Offer unconditional support. And tell them to call us."