STEELE COUNTY — “No one deserves to be a victim of abuse,” said Missie Blackstad in a soft yet stern voice.
Since February, Blackstad has been the acting domestic violence coordinator for the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County located in Owatonna. When it comes to domestic abuse she has unfortunately seen it all, though some of the cases she deals with can still be surprising to people.
“In today’s society I think people are aware that [abuse] is happening and 10 years ago I would say that they weren’t,” Blackstad said. “But people still think of the physical side when they hear domestic abuse. A lot of people don’t realize that emotional, financial, sexual, and verbal abuse is still considered domestic abuse.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Blackstad is hoping to take the opportunity to educate the public on the various forms of abuse that are all equally toxic and detrimental to a victim. Throughout the month, a display board on the cycle of abuse will rotate to four organizations in Steele County. The board will travel to the Owatonna Public Library, the Blooming Prairie Public Library, Steele County Public Health, and the Owatonna Clinic — in that order — remaining one week at each location.
“When you’re in an abusive relationship it goes through a cycle,” Blackstad said as she described the break that comes after an explosive period. “There are these honeymoon periods full of apologies and promises and everything is fine for a period of time. Then it goes back to walking on eggshells, the snide comments, until it explodes again. It consistently goes around in that cycle.”
According to Blackstad, it takes a victim a national average of seven times of leaving an abusive relationship before they leave for good. At the Crisis Resource Center, however, Blackstad said that the amount of times a victim returns to their abuser will never negatively impact access to their resources.
“We do not judge here,” Blackstad said. “We understand.”
Blackstad said that one of the more difficult areas of abuse to navigate is the emotional abuse, which can come in the form of yelling, insulting, causing fear through intimidation, bullying, and gas lighting — the manipulation of someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
“An example of gas lighting would be saying someone did something to you and in turn they say you are making it up or you were dreaming,” Blackstad explained. “These tactics make someone feel stupid, dumb, worthless, or crazy.”
A large factor in the battle that is emotional abuse is that there currently is no legislation or state statute that protects a victim from it. While there are orders of protection and harassment restraining orders that awards some form of safety net for a victim, Blackstad stated that there isn’t much more in terms of emotional abuse that a perpetrator can legally violate.
“A lot of people who have been emotionally abused don’t seek out help because they feel as if they are crazy because of how their abuser made them feel,” she added. “I always make sure that I validate victims that the way they feel isn’t crazy and that this happens and is a type of abuse.”
One of the tools that Blackstad believes to be of great value is the Power and Control wheel used by the Crisis Resource Center. The wheel shows eight vastly different tactics that a person can use as forms of abuse, from threatening to take someone’s children away to not letting a victim have access to family income to using jealousy as a mean to justify actions.
“If a victim doesn’t think they’re in an abusive situation, the wheel usually helps them see that they are,” Blackstad said.
Various services provided by the Crisis Resource Centers for victims of domestic abuse include accompaniments to court, law enforcement, and hospitals; assisting in writing court orders; and on-site advocacy during a domestic situation.
“We have an advocate or volunteer on call 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” Blackstad said. “It’s truly a wonderful services because we can have someone within minutes after a domestic occurs with a victim when they are at their most vulnerable. The advocate can help them discuss what that next step will be and what their options are.”
“It is important for people to know that we’re here, we’re confidential, and we’re free,” she continued. “And again, no one deserves to be a victim of abuse.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing any type of abuse, please call (507) 451-1202 to speak to an advocate at the Crisis Resource Center.