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Advocate is dedicated to preventing abuse

Posted 4/12/2013   Updated 4/12/2013 Email story   Print story


by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

4/12/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, AL  -- April features several informative events for the National Child Abuse Prevention Month at Maxwell, but the team at Family Advocacy must deal with abuse cases all year-round.

For one member that means every second of every day. As one of only 44 in the Air Force who remains on call 24/7 as Family Advocacy' s domestic abuse victim advocate for abused and sexually assaulted adults and their children, many seek Daphne O'Hair for their safety.

She was only 18 when she knew that being an advocate was the only job for her. "When I was 18, I got to go help folks in a crisis right after it happened," said O'Hair about her time working with disaster relief efforts for a Mennonite community.

"I just decided that this was my job. This is what I wanted to do, and I haven't done anything else." After 25 years in the field, she continues to get excited about helping communities learn about abuse prevention, warning signs and ways to protect themselves.

When helping children, O'Hair makes learning fun, not feared. Listening to their instincts, recognizing when something makes them uncomfortable and coming to an adult when that happens will help them when faced with compromising situations.

Building rapport and educating the community about child abuse is important for adults and their children to feel comfortable reporting abuse and sexual assault to Family Advocacy, base officials, commanders, teachers and security forces.
In turn, they will be preventing abuse from reoccurring, according to April Jones, Family Advocacy outreach manager. "It is important to reach parents and children alike concerning child abuse to prevent incidents from occurring in our community, to educate parents and children about the warning signs of abuse, and for them to know how and to whom a report can be made on and off of the installation," she said.

This month's events encourage families to become more aware and help stop the cycle of abuse for children and adults alike. Safety planning, Jones added, helps families teach their children what measures they should take in case they or their friends become victims.

With each of her clients, both young and old, O'Hair creates a safety plan based on their individual needs and situation. Sometimes the client must escape an abusive situation. If the client chooses to stay, O'Hair may fight to acquire a court order of protection, which documents an offender must not come near the victim and or their children.

"It is not my decision whether someone stays or goes," she explained  "Maybe they need to get out right away, but need to plan around children or put money away for the escape. Some need help to safety plan on how to stay in the situation if that's what they decide."

O'Hair added that it is imperative to plan carefully with each individual because she said 75 percent of all homicides and domestic violence injuries nationwide occur when someone is attempting to escape an abusive situation.

However, if children are at risk in a domestic violence or child abuse situation, O'Hair and the Family Advocacy staff have the authority under unrestricted reporting to contact other agencies such as the Department of Human Resources, Child Protective Services.

Jones stresses that reporting abuse is also the community's responsibility as well. "Abuse doesn't stop on its own, it's the community members' responsibility to learn about the warning signs of child abuse, to make the report to family advocacy, and to be wingmen ensuring that team Maxwell-Gunter is not being a bystander to child abuse," she added.

Before coming to Maxwell in November 2011, O'Hair was hired by law enforcement in New Mexico where she was a senior victim advocate. There, she led a team taking upward of 1,000 cases a month. She worked with everything from domestic violence, sexual assault and homicide to grief training, identity theft and animal hoarding.

She has worked previously as a house mother for juvenile offenders, juvenile sex-offenders and pregnant teenage girls and worked with a sexual assault center in Kansas for 13 years.

O'Hair admits her cases seem overwhelming at times, but she sees it as her ethical duty to
provide her clients with enough strength, courage and emotional nourishment they need by caring for herself and her spirit.

"It's definitely hard, but it's always been worth it," she said. "When I decided that this is what I wanted to do, I decided that I didn't want to date, I didn't want to get married and I didn't want to have kids. I wanted all of it to be this."

To report abuse within the military family on or off base call Family Advocacy at 953-5430/5055, security forces at 953-7222, command post at 953-7474, Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647, O'Hair at 523-9174 or call 911. 

                             Child Abuse Prevention Awareness lunch and learn events:

12-1 p.m. inside the Maxwell Community Library. Topics to discuss will be:

Monday - "What is Child Abuse? And Preventing Child Abuse,"
covering tips for the community

Tuesday - "Potty Training your Toddler"

Wednesday - "Shaken Baby Syndrome"

Thursday - "Discipline vs.. Punishment," showing difference and use in appropriate situations

April 19 - "Praise and Rewards," giving tangible and intangible tokens

123 Magic Parenting Class: 6-8 p.m. April 16 and 23 inside the Gunter Community Center. The class, taught by 42nd Medical Group nurse Gwen Hill, will cover parenting tips for children ages 3-12 on discipline, encouraging good behavior and strengthening the parent child relationship. Register by calling 953-5055.

Baby and You Orientation: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 17 at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. Geared toward expecting parents, class will focus on caring for the health and wellness of the baby along with safety tips and financial advice. Register by calling 953-5055.

Family Fun Day: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 19 at the Maxwell Commissary. Base Integrated Delivery System agencies, the Maxwell Base Exchange and Maxwell Commissary will have informational
booths and interactive activities for the base population covering autism awareness and child abuse, sexual assault and alcohol prevention. Register by calling 953-5055.

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