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Abusers, stalkers similar in ways

| Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

KITTANNING -- Jo Ellen Bowman, director of HAVIN -- Helping Abuse Victims in Need -- a shelter for victims of domestic violence, says everyone deserves to live a life free from violence.

During the past several years, HAVIN has provided counseling, shelter and support to hundreds or domestic violence, stalking and rape victims in Armstrong County.

"You never really know who may become violent or a stalker because most people don't really 'see' the person they're married to until after they're married. Batterers or stalkers come from all spheres of life and from all socioeconomic backgrounds," Bowman said. "However, abusers or stalkers do have some common denominators."

She said at least three factors come to mind: Batterers or stalkers are controlling, they are jealous, and they often tend to isolate their victims from family and friends. The overwhelming majority of stalkers are men and the majority of women they stalk are current or former intimate partners. Some stalkers pursue their victims at least once a week, but for many, it's a daily occurrence. Stalking often results in violence. In one out of five cases, weapons are used to harm or threaten victims.

Bowman said in addition to seeking appropriate counseling, victims should document each incident and gather evidence.

"There have been several movies about extreme domestic violence," she said, "and in the movies, the victims took drastic action against their antagonizers. We never advocate drastic action. At HAVIN, we provide victims with a stalking kit. It includes a 911 cell phone, a journal and pen, flashlight and batteries, disposable camera, a stalking or violence incident log, a copy of the Stalking Handbook for Victims, and a list of HAVIN services and information about Protection From Abuse orders.

"The best course of action anyone can take is to document everything, dates, times, places, names of witnesses, description of the stalker or batterer, what they were wearing, and so on. If you need to seek medical treatment as a result of an attack medical records and photographs are invaluable. No one has to remain a victim. HAVIN is ready to help victims of stalking or domestic violence. We frequently hold seminars for police officers on how to deal with such situations, and officers are furnished with a list of resources they can give to victims. Our District Attorney, Scott Andreassi, is very involved with our program, and his office will prosecute batterers or stalkers aggressively. We also hold seminars for employers teaching them how to handle situations where one of their employees is a stalking victim."

HAVIN maintains a 24-hour toll-free victim hot line: 800-841-8881. Local calls may be made to: 724-548-8888. Bowman said January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

"Everyone knows that domestic violence and rape are crimes, but some may not be aware that stalking is also a crime. No one has to live in fear," Bowman said. "We are here to help."

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