Guest opinion: Domestic violence is a silent epidemic affecting us all |

Guest opinion: Domestic violence is a silent epidemic affecting us all

Julie Olson

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it has been commemorated nationally since 1981 with the color purple.

Two weeks ago our community experienced the ultimate form of domestic violence, a homicide. Many may think, “It doesn’t affect me. I don’t know those people.”

I’d suggest you take off your rose-colored glasses because a domestic violence homicide affects us all. One in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Unfortunately for Blanca Judith Salas-Jurado, her experience of physical violence by an intimate partner resulted in death.

It is important to note that Blanca is not the first homicide in our community as a result of domestic violence. Some of you may remember Kay Diemoz, Ruth Ann McDowell, Lisa Morgan, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya or Audrey Lowndres, to name a few who were killed as a result of domestic violence. Sadly, Blanca will not be the last, but she will join the above domestic violence victims who suffered the worst possible fate.

Domestic violence is a silent epidemic not only in the U.S. but right here in Garfield County. Translating the statistic above to here in Garfield County this is what I found:

I looked at only adults 18-64 years old. There were 36,659 people in Garfield County in 2015 with 17,963 being female and 18,696 being male. According to the above statistic, one can infer that there are at least 5,928 females and 4,674 males in Garfield County who have experienced physical violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime.

I’m hoping you now see that even if domestic violence does not occur in your home, it is occurring in your neighborhood and in our community, and, yes, it is affecting us all even if we aren’t aware of it. It affects the first responders of these calls, health care providers, the legal system, schools, child care providers, employers, friends, family and definitely our children.

Domestic violence is prevalent in every community. All people, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality, can be victims. Domestic violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, which is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma and in severe cases, even death. Emotional abuse and subtle manipulations can be just as harmful and more difficult to identify and prove. The devastating consequences of domestic violence cross generations and last a lifetime.

Advocate Safehouse Project is the only program in Garfield County offering comprehensive and confidential services to survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence and their children. In fact, we have the only Safehouse Program in the Roaring Fork Valley and one of only 11 domestic violence shelters on Colorado’s Western Slope.

Advocate Safehouse Project’s mission is to promote healthy relationships free from violence through education, advocacy, empowerment and safehousing. During 2015, we handled more than 2,300 calls, worked with 429 survivors and provided 18 families with 19 children for a total of 37 individuals with 2,350 nights of emergency shelter.

Many of you may be asking yourselves how you can help our community to prevent domestic violence to help our daughters and sons. I know we all want the best for our children and grandchildren. Often abusive behaviors take shape and start to express themselves in adolescence. We don’t want our children to become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. Prevention can look like a couple of things:

• Model characteristics of a healthy relationship with those you love. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with each other, but you can disagree in a respectful manner, not a controlling manner. So in other words, walk the talk.

• Encourage schools and/or youth groups to participate in “Safe Dates,” evidence-based training to teach youth how to establish healthy relationships.

• Encourage your son’s coaching staff to participate in the “Coaching Boys Into Men” evidence-based training. All it takes is 15 minutes a week of a focused discussion with the coaches and the team to help our sons.

• Use our “Healthy Relationship” bookmarks, especially with your children and begin a conversation about what is “healthy” and what is “unhealthy” in any kind of a relationship.

For survivors reading this, Advocate Safehouse Project has a 24-hour help line (970-945-4439 and 970-285-0209) that is confidential. You can call and talk about what your options are before you make any decisions. Advocate Safehouse Project will support whatever decision you make.

Also, join us at our candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Park (Ninth Street and Grand Avenue) in Glenwood Springs. It is an opportunity to help our community, survivors and their families heal. For more information, please check out our website (, email me at, or call me at 970-928-2070.

Julie Olson is executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project.

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