Free counseling available to victims of dating violence in Hays and Caldwell Counties
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
It is estimated that one in three young people will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with, according to Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center. To help bring awareness to the issue both the Lockhart City Council and the Caldwell County Commissioners Court issued proclamations declaring February as Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Dating violence is more than just cuts and bruises. It can be subtle patterns of behavior or control such as a partner telling them what they should do, controlling who they can hang out with, or what they should think about themselves. For young adults who are still developing their sense of self, the actions leave lasting impressions.
“It can be really damaging, “Shawna Anderson-Curry, a non-residential dating violence counselor II at the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) said in a Feb. 5 phone interview. “When you have a person in your life who is, essentially, trying to dominate your thought processes, it gives you a real limited sense of control.”
Anderson-Curry said she is seeing an increased trend of perpetrators, who are typically male, threatening self-harm unless the female victim does whatever the male wants. This exploits the caring nature of the young female, often leading them to do things they didn’t want to in order to “save” their partner.
“It’s a more powerful tool than even threatening to hurt [the female],” Anderson-Curry said.
HCWC offers six months of free counseling to residents of Hays or Caldwell County experiencing dating violence or domestic abuse. They can call 512-396-HELP and answer a brief confidential survey to qualify.
In the therapy sessions they teach the basics of healthy relationships which include openly communicating problems, respecting boundaries, trust, being honest, making decisions together, and enjoying personal time alone or apart.
They also practice assertive communication, which Anderson-Curry said that can be particularly difficult for women. Standing up for yourself as a woman can be viewed as aggressive, mean, or not acceptable.
“It’s really hard for young people to know how to appropriately stand up for themselves,” Anderson-Curry said, adding, “It’s ok to set boundaries for yourself, and it’s ok to be assertive.”
The pandemic has presented additional challenges for some young women who are now having to quarantine with their abuser. Anderson-Curry said it makes women feel like it’s their only option, which can feel scary and isolating. She hopes regardless of the living situation, women will find the courage to call the hotline and get help if they need it.
“You are not as alone as you think you are,” Anderson-Curry said. “Help is always out there.”
If you are experiencing dating or domestic violence in Hays or Caldwell County, you can call the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center 24-hour help line at 512-396-HELP. The call is free and confidential.