Q&A: Gloria Callaghan, Grays Harbor Domestic Violence Center

Gloria Callaghan has served as the director of the Grays Harbor Domestic Violence Center for five years but came with 30 years of experience in the social services field. She attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia and Blue Mountain College in Great Falls, Mont., but also continues to work to improve in her job every day. “There is always something to be learned,” Callaghan said. The 25-year Aberdeen resident also serves on the boards of ARC of Grays Harbor, Hoquiam Business Association and the Hoquiam Development Association. She and her husband, Norm, have a son, Sean, and three daughters: Echo, Kricket, and Brandy. Callaghan has three cats, two dogs and seven birds.

How did the Domestic Violence center come about?

The Domestic Violence Center was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1980. In the beginning it started as a program to provide services to victims of domestic violence and their families. The first way that victims were sheltered was families in the community would take individuals and children into their homes to shelter them. However, our domestic violence center in 1993 established a safe house for victims and their families, and we continue to uphold the same beliefs now that no one should have domestic violence in their lives. Without intervention services, domestic violence will continue to be an overwhelming social problem in our community. In our work we know that each individual tends to be different, so we are always finding ways to meet anyone’s needs. The staff here understands that domestic violence needs to stop. When someone walks through our door as a victim we do our best to provide services and help to support them, so they walk back out as a survivor.

Who does the center serve?

The program serves anyone who has experienced domestic violence which consists of willful intimidation, assault or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one family member, household member or intimate partner against another. The relationship necessary for a charge of domestic violence or abuse generally includes a spouse, person currently residing together or those that have within the previous year, or persons who share a common child.

Is there a typical victim of domestic violence?

Really there is not a typically victim. Anybody can be a victim — rich or poor, any race, age or religion. High school drop-out or Ph.D., it has been shown no characteristic link between personality type and being a victim. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one help is available. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

What resources are available through the center?

Our program was formed to serve victims of domestic violence through crisis intervention, support, protection and any other services needed to help families involved in this situation. We provide free confidential assistance to victims of domestic violence, including teens who could be in dating violence relationship. Our services include but are not limited to: Crisis intervention advocacy, legal advocacy, support groups, community education, prevention and a safe shelter. We are always working on prevention by educating everyone in the community. We encourage everyone to listen to your friends and families’ stories and believe them, encourage them to think about their safety and reach out to a domestic violence program for help. The staff here has a saying that we will meet with anyone, anywhere to discuss how to prevent domestic violence within our community.

What drew you to work with victims of domestic violence?

I previously had worked at the Coastal Community Action Program with other social service agencies. I left there after many years to work in our family business. At this time I was serving on the Domestic Violence board when the executive position came open. I was just going to fill in, but once I got into the position I didn’t want to leave. I really appreciated the work the staff was doing, and their work ethic, so I wanted to continue to work with them and to make a difference in people’s lives. I continue to admire the job that the advocates are capable of doing. Carmen, Kelly, Caty and Tracy do a tremendous amount of advocacy to assist victims to become survivors, every day.

What misconceptions about domestic violence have you encountered?

The major one is that only women can be victims of domestic violence. This is not true. A victim/survivor comes from all races, religions and social economic backgrounds. They can be physically or emotional battered. They can also be kept isolated from their families and friends. Living in a rural area they often do not have access to transportation, which limits their knowledge of resources and keeps them in a constant fear for their safety. Domestic violence is not just simply physical, domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior, it is not caused by anger, mental problems, alcohol/drugs, or other common excuses.

Another misconception is that most domestic violence incidents are caused by alcohol or drug abuse. Not all people who have alcohol or drug problems are violent. It is often easier to blame an incident on alcohol/drugs than to admit your partner is violent. Studies have shown that there isn’t always a correlation between episodes of drinking or drug use and incidents of domestic violence. They often occur separately and need to be treated as two different issues.

Neither of these influences can be an excuse for domestic violence.

How can victims get legal protection in a domestic violence situation?

We have a legal advocate who helps obtain information about their legal options and how the criminal system works to help them prepare for the legal process. Kelly can advocate for victims/survivors by going to court, or will refer them to other agencies, including to legal agencies for advice when needed. She can explain Protection Orders and how they are enforced. Everyone deserves to live a life without fear. If you know someone who needs help please call, our 24-hour number 360-538-0733 to speak to an advocate.