By Jessica Waters
The Toccoa Record
Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:43 AM EDT
In 2009, Circle of Hope served 1,017 women, men and children from Stephens, Habersham and White Counties; answered more than 900 crisis calls, sheltered 187 women and children and assisted 830 non-residents and assisted with 170 temporary protective orders.
Circle of Hope’s mission is to support, empower and bring hope to those affected by domestic violence, and that mission is one that holds great significance and importance to Jeff and Janice Haslup and their son, Matt. In July of 2008, Jeff and Janice’s daughter, Stephanie, was murdered by her estranged husband, and on a Saturday last month, more than a mile of motorcycles and cars followed the path from Toccoa to the White County 911 Dispatch Center – a route Stephanie took every day to work.
The annual Stephie’s Journey ride and fundraiser raised funds for Circle of Hope’s battle against domestic violence, and served as a dedication for the new memorial garden and monument in memory of Stephanie and all domestic violence victims, the most important goal was to spread education and awareness of domestic violence and it’s prevalence and effects, said Janice Haslup.
Circle of Hope, too, strives to increase public awareness and education about domestic violence, while working to safeguard and support those who are at risk, or suffering from abuse.
“In addition to providing women and children with a safe haven from abuse, we also provide services that help them regain their strength and achieve safety and stability for themselves and their children (with) services such as … counseling and support groups, legal advocacy, a 24 hour crisis hotline, personal advocacy for victims to link them to resources to meet their basic needs of housing, clothing, medicine and food, transitional and supportive housing programs to increase self-sufficiency and prevention programs for school age children to educate them about healthy relationships,” said Stephanie Tolbert, associate director with Circle of Hope Services.
“One of the most important services that our agency provides is safety planning. Safety planning takes into account each victim’s personal situation and working together, the participant and the advocate create a plan to leave an abusive situation as safely as possible,” she said.
Tolbert said that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when she decides to leave the relationship.
“Each year, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducts a fatality review, and in almost every case, the victim was in the process of leaving the abusive relationship,” Tolbert said.
“Some actions taken are obvious indicators of leaving, such as filing for protective order, or breaking up, or moving out. Other victims were just making moves towards gaining their independence from the abuser, like finding a job, continuing their education, or even just keeping in touch with old friends,” Tolbert said.
“For all these victims, their very survival was at stake, and yet in each case, leaving their abuser was not enough to keep them safe. While our cultural expectation is that victims should always leave an abusive partner, the reality is that leaving, particularly in the absence of safety planning can be extremely dangerous,” she said.
Circle of Hope’s advocates are trained with a vast knowledge of information to assist victims and their families with creating options to safely leave an abusive situation. Tolbert advised.
“I urge you not to judge victims of domestic violence, question their decisions or think they are making poor choices,” she said.
“Can we ever understand the reality of a victim’s struggle without witnessing or experiencing it for ourselves? Instead seek to be compassionate and supportive and above all, please spread the word that Circle of Hope is here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide education, support and safe options for victims,” Tolbert said.
“ I believe that if we provide the caring support that victims need, as well as hold abusers accountable for their actions, we can help eliminate this violence in our communities,” she said.
For more information about Circle of Hope, visit http://www.gacircleofhope.org/ or call 706-776-3406. 24-Hour Local Hotline 706-776-HOPE (Collect Calls Accepted).
For the nearest GA Domestic Violence agency, call 1-800-33-HAVEN, or to reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-SAFE.