SANPETE COUNTY – The light poles along each main street in the county are tied with a purple ribbon this month to bring awareness of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The theme for Domestic Violence Awareness Month this year is “Paint the Town Purple.” The color purple is a symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence. It is a salute to survivors and those we have lost to domestic violence.
“We are taking the opportunity in October to spread our message of hope for anyone who has encountered domestic violence to reach out and get support from us,” said Heidi Aagard, Rape and Sexual Assault program coordinator at New Horizons Crisis Center.
The New Horizons Crisis Center is a non-profit organization based in Richfield with outreach support services in Sevier, Sanpete, Wayne, Piute, and Millard Counties. They dedicate their time and efforts to encircling victims by educating and empowering them with support and resources.
It is the goal of New Horizons to bring about more awareness and understanding across Central Utah. Since the year 2000, at least 42% of Utah homicides were domestic violence related. According to the Utah Coalition for Domestic Violence (UCDV), one in three women is a victim of domestic violence and 36.9% of Utah women will experience rape, stalking and/or physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Aagard said that often people are misinformed and think that domestic violence is something that doesn’t affect our area or people “like us.” It can be difficult to separate one from things seen on social media and across the internet, and yet we are willing to look the other way when it comes to the realities of domestic violence that surround us in our day to day lives.
It is important to understand what domestic violence means and what it can look like. The term ‘violence’ in this instance is all-encompassing and includes emotional, verbal, mental, psychological and physical violence.
“Did it ever get physical?” This is often the first question people ask when they suspect an abusive relationship. Starting a conversation about physical abuse is essential, but it’s not the only form of domestic abuse.
Aagard said that stopping short of asking about other forms of abuse implies that physical violence is the defining factor of a harmful relationship. Worse, this implication conveys that whatever else may be going on is just “not that bad.”
She said that it can be heartbreaking when someone—whether it is the person inflicting the abuse, a third-party observer, or even the target of the abuse—misattributes its damage to another cause such as unemployment, family stress, life’s hardships, or even the mental state of the victim before the abuse started as the cause of the effects, instead of recognizing the situation for what it is.
On Oct. 17, 2012, Amber Tucker of Fairview’s life changed forever due to domestic abuse. She was in the process of leaving her ex-husband. They had been together for ten years, married for seven. They had two boys ages five and three at the time. Amber’s mom was coming to Utah from Alaska to help her get divorced and to help with her kids.
Amber had been physically, verbally and emotionally abused by her then-husband Will for three years. When he found out that Amber’s mother was coming to help, he drove to Fairview and caught Amber completely off guard.
Will approached Amber on her family farm, poking her in the chest and calling her all sorts of foul names, all while their two children watched. Amber put the kids in her truck and left the farm, but he followed her, slamming his vehicle into hers, yelling at her through the window. At one point he even told their five-year-old son that “Mommy was going to call the cops and have Daddy killed.”
“I was a brainwashed girl,” said Amber. “He told me he wouldn’t hurt me if I pulled over; he just wanted to see the kids, and I believed him.”
When they returned to the family home, the fighting continued. Amber was trying to leave again with her kids, and her truck started rolling as Will was pushing her out of the vehicle. The truck rolled over her legs, hips and torso. When it got to her shoulder, she said she knew that she was going to die. The truck continued to roll and shattered all her ribs, throwing her shoulder forward, which caused the truck tire to miss her head. Amber’s neighbor came to her rescue by calling 911 and helping with the boys.
“I sustained broken ribs, amputated fingers, a bruised lung, a damaged pancreas, and a six inch deep laceration in my hip. My right front foot was shattered and completely compressed with permanent nerve damage and loss of blood supply,” Amber recalled.
Amber was transported to a hospital where a police officer came in, and she said for the first time in years, she realized she was living in an abusive marriage.
“I was given a second chance at this life,” she said. “One I will not take for granted. Perhaps my second chance will give other women in abusive situations a second chance as well.”
Those looking to show their care for domestic violence victims and survivors alike are welcome to purchase a yard sign or a purple lightbulb for their front porch to showcase their support. Please reach out to New Horizons Crisis Center to find local places that are selling these items.
Though they are grant based, they rely heavily on private donations to be able to cover the services they provide to victims that grants don’t cover. They accept donations via check or Venmo. Checks can be written to New Horizons Crisis Center and mailed to their headquarters at 145 E. 100 N. Richfield, UT 84701. They also accept Venmo donations @NewHorizonsCrisisCenter.
PLEASE REACH OUT TO CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION: Heidi Aagard 435-287-7058 (cell) or 24 hour hotline 1-800-343-6302. Sanpete County office is located at 96 South Main Suite 4 Ephraim, UT.