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Victim’s advocacy program seeking volunteers

Christine Ina Casillas

Sometimes, setting boundaries to separate an emotional crisis from one’s personal life helps volunteers and victims alike cope with traumatic situations.

It doesn’t make the situation any easier, however, says Deena Ezzell, victim services coordinator for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Volunteers for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office advocate training program work 12-hour shifts, from 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The program is seeking more volunteers to cover 60 shifts each month helping victims of rape, domestic violence and suicide with court procedures.

The program started in 1991 to address the needs of people in traumatic situations, Ezzell said.

“Positive response’

When an officer responds to a call, the advocate provides questions and emotional support for the victims that helps free officers to conduct business, she said.

“We’ve had a lot of positive response with people that we’ve worked with,” she said.

But the volunteers all have a wide background filled with extensive training, she said.

Ezzell joined the training program because she wanted to help people. After a while, she decided to go back to school, and she eventually became the program’s coordinator.

That’s how it starts for many – just wanting to help people, she said.

One of the volunteers, Jane (whose last name has been withheld) has a master’s degree in counseling. When she moved to Vail in May of 2002, she wanted to use her degree and become involved with the community.

“I wanted to keep my hands in the counseling side,” she said. “The training program shows us how the system works, what you can tell the people you’re talking to because some have safety problems.”

After the six- to seven-week training program, Jane said, she became hooked on the project.

The volunteers experience a slow period, however, she said.

“The winter is a lot slower than the summer,” she said. “There’s a lot more people from out of town in the winter, and we receive less calls because of it.”

Jane hasn’t been called to the scene yet but she has spoken to a number of victims over the telephone.

“We can’t project anything we can’t deliver,” she said. “This program definitely isn’t for people who are excitement junkies. It’s just not a comfortable or pleasant process.”

Keeping calm

Jane said her job is to help keep the victim’s calm, she said.

“What’s hard about the program is that there isn’t much follow-up,” she said. “After a call, we stay with the victim until we know they’re safe and know that they can take care of their kids and themselves. But we don’t get to know what happens to them in the end.”

Jane said she becomes quite angry in some situations.

“I became very angry over one call I received because someone did something terrible to this girl,” she said. “Even though she was of legal age, it still made me angry.”

But she also said she gets disappointed in many of the women who call for assistance because she knows that in the end, they will just go back to their former lifestyle.

“I get disappointed because these women are telling me this sad, sad story, yet, because their lives are so involved with these men, I can tell they will be allowed back home and back to the same situation,” she said. “It’s a huge expense to break free from that, and I just get so angry because of how this world is made. … It’s not the woman’s fault, and that’s what makes you afraid for them in general.”

More laws are being proposed that would benefit women of domestic violence, she said.

“If an officer sees physical abuse, that person will be taken in,” she said. “It’s no longer in the hands of the person who called the people. But these laws are made for women who have been abused.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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