December 01st, 2023

pac meeting part 1Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center Director Kelly Robbins talks about her agency and its newest office in Liberal Thursday evening at the most recent Police And Community meeting. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a short series of stories concerning the Liberal Police Department’s Police And Community meeting Thursday, during which audience members heard from officials with the Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Service office about domestic violence issues as well as the services the agency provides.

Community members heard from Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Services Director Lori Hensley Thursday evening at the most recent edition of the Liberal Police Department’s Police And Community meetings at the Seward County Activity Center.

LPD Chief Dennis Mulanax introduced Hensley and talked about the issue of domestic violence, which is he said is truly a problem of all society.

“It affects our schools,” he said. “It affects employment. It affects our government agencies and so forth and having to respond to this. This is truly a societal problem.”

Hensley first introduced the staff of LARC/DVS to the audience, noting that combined, the staff has more than 53 years of collective experience serving domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking victims.

“When you talk to other agencies, they may have 10 to 15 staff, but their collective years isn’t what ours is,” she said. “The longevity of staff that we have is amazing.”

Hensley then touched on the agency’s history.

“We were created as a non-profit in 1981,” she said. “We were originally the Liberal Area Rape Crisis Center. It was from the ground up. There had been a rape that had happened. A very prominent business woman in town had been raped, and her friend said ‘This is not going to happen.’ Some of her friends said, ‘We’re not going to allow this happen.’ It was grassroots. It came up from the bottom, and in 1985, they hired the first executive director. With that, we became a duel agency, and that’s when we picked up the domestic violence piece of it, which gives us our name.”

Hensley later talked about domestic violence and what it entangles.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior used to gain dominance, power and control over an intimate partner,” she said. “When we talk about intimate partner, we’re talking about spouses. We’re talking about significant others. We’re talking about those individuals you live with. These are the people you love the most in life.”

Hensley said much of domestic violence centers around battering behavior, which can impact other family members and can be used in other family relationships.

“That’s when we talk about the children, and we talk about the abuse and the abuse pattern and how that happens,” she said. “Domestic violence is a pattern. It’s something that is learned behavior.”

Hensley further explained that domestic violence is something children observe and are around.

“As we talk about domestic violence, the more prevention we can do, the better chances we have of stopping it,” she said. “Also, the sooner we intervene with children and can help them understand what’s going on with domestic violence, we’re able to turn that tide around.”

Hensley talked about the mental aspect of domestic violence.

“We know there are things in the brain that when someone is in a domestic violence relationship, they start using a very primitive part of their brain,” she said. “When you think about a domestic violence situation, people are thinking about survival.”

As expected, women are more often the victims of domestic violence, but Hensley said this does not mean men are excluded from being victimized.

“I know as well as anybody else that a man can be a domestic violence survivor just like a woman can be,” she said. “Making them afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying their property, abusing their pets, these are ways of intimidation.”

Hensley then talked about many of the factors that lead to domestic violence, one of the largest being finances.

“We see individuals who have been married 10 years, 15 years and have been dealing with domestic violence a large portion of that time that have never been allowed to have a job outside their home,” she said. “This is the power of control we’re talking about.”

Audience members were shown a diagram centered around power and control showing many of the factors that lead to domestic violence. Hensley said not all of these pieces have to be in place for a case to qualify as domestic violence.

“All you need is a part of this,” she said.

Hensley said domestic violence has somewhat of a domino effect on a relationship.

“When you start reading and you begin to see the things that go on in all of these pieces, there is no trust, and there is no support of someone or very little thereof, accepting responsibility for themselves or acknowledging the past use of violence, admitting being wrong, communicating openly and truthfully,” she said. 

Another big item in relationships, Hensley said, is communication.

“Without communications going one way, that’s really difficult to be able to have successful marriage, intimate partner relationship, domestic relationship,” she said.

Hensley said equality in relationship starts with shared responsibility.

“You have to know the economics going on in your house,” she said. “You have to know what’s coming in, what’s going out, what the expenses are, but if only one person is doing that and controlling that, that doesn’t make it equal.”

Hensley said stalking is likewise a huge piece of domestic violence.

“What happens is when one partner decides ‘I’ve had enough’ and they leave, you think the person that’s doing all the power and control’s done? No,” she said. “What happens is then, they have to figure out how to gain control back. They’ve lost that control.”

Hensley said victims of domestic violence can often have a feeling of confusion.

“You have that trauma feeling of loss, of helplessness, not being able to understand why you can’t sleep at night or why you sleep all the time,” she said. “Different people process it differently, so you have all kinds of different effects.”

Also, Hensley said domestic violence knows no societal bounds.

“It crosses all classes, socioeconomic classes, races, lifestyle and religious lines,” she said. “It does not pick and choose. You can be one of the highest earners in your community and still have domestic violence going on in your household.”