Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence Within Sweetwater County

Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence Within Sweetwater County

Nicole Halstead, Whitney Sewell's mother, talks to the Rock Springs City Council about the StandForWhitt Foundation as Melinda Baas, YWCA Director, listens. SweetwaterNOW photo by Stephanie Thompson

SWEETWATER COUNTY — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and YWCA of Sweetwater County Center for Families and Children has been spreading the word across the county in a public awareness campaign.

YWCA gave presentations on domestic violence during the Sweetwater County Commissioners meeting, as well as both Green River and Rock Springs city council meetings on Tuesday. All three entities proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Sweetwater County and the Cities of Green River and Rock Springs.

Taneesa Congdon, director of the YWCA Center for Families and Children, said that the YWCA of Sweetwater County provided 13,000 services for victims of domestic violence in 2019.

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Additionally, they assisted 357 victims, provided 1,187 shelter nights, and answered 1,299 crisis calls in 2019.

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Congdon reported that the YWCA was experiencing in increase in crisis calls, which she believed had to do with job loss or reduced hours resulting in victims being “trapped” within their homes with their perpetrators.

Congdon added that each year a nationwide study is done to capture a snapshot of what domestic violence looks like across the country in a 24-hour period. The 2019 survey results showed there were 77,000 victims of domestic violence and 19.159 hotline crisis calls answered with that 24-hour period of time.

Green River Mayor Pete Rust and the Green River City Council proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Green River. Two Parks and Recreation employees, Debbie Hanson and Kristy Lessard, decorated the Council Chambers in pink and purple ribbons for breast cancer and domestic violence awareness. SwetwaterNOW photo by Olivia Kennah

She said it is important to raise awareness to make people recognize domestic violence is an issue that exists in Sweetwater County, as well as show victims they have resources where they can seek help.

“We do this so the community knows that domestic violence does happen in our community. It happens behind closed doors, it’s often a hidden violence,” Congdon said. “But more importantly, we want to reach out to those who may be experiencing domestic violence.”

Statistically, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence within their lifetime, according to Congdon.

The YWCA worked efficiently throughout the early months of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. They would could stay open and were available to provide aid and resources for victims of domestic violence.

“We’ve been here for victims, we want them to know that abuse is never their fault, and you’re not alone throughout this. Advocates are available 24/7,” she said.

Advocates are available by calling 307-352-1030.

YWCA of Sweetwater County Executive Director Melinda Baas and Nicole Halstead pose for a photo with Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo, who proclaimed October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. SweetwaterNOW photo by Stephanie Thompson

Events for Awareness and Remembrance

Due to COVID-19, the YWCA’s annual candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence is being adjusted to a drive-by vigil. On October 20 from 5:30 to 6:30, people can go to Bunning Park and drive through to remember the victims who lost their lives in Sweetwater County as result of domestic violence. There will be life-sized red silhouettes to honor each person.

On October 17, there will be the #StandForWhitt5k walk and run at the Park Hotel in honor of Rock Springs woman, Whitney Sewell, who lost her life in December 2019 as a result of domestic violence. The walk and run will take place at noon and food will be served afterwards.