Officially, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
For Sandy McKelvey and other volunteers who are involved with Rangely Victim Services, Domestic Violence Awareness Month is every month.
Making people aware of domestic violence — and that help is available — is an ongoing, year-round effort.
“A lot of people don’t know they are abused,” McKelvey said. “They just think it’s normal. You have the whole dynamic of power and control and why women stay. They can’t afford to leave because of economic situations. Studies show once you file for divorce, you are plunged into poverty, especially for women.”
Domestic violence takes different forms.
“There are so many different types of abuses,” McKelvey said. “There’s emotional, physical. There’s economic. A lot of men threaten and say, ‘You leave me and you won’t ever see your kids again.’”
There’s a T-shirt McKelvey gives out to guys that says “Real men beat eggs.”
“So many people are abused behind closed doors,” she said. “We’re just trying to get the word out. A lot of men are coming forward and saying, ‘Let’s stop this. It’s not cool to hit.’”
Asked about the scope of the problem in Rangely, McKelvey said, “That’s hard to say. It goes in spurts. Sometimes it’s really busy. Sometimes there’s nothing going on. We always have a little increase in football season, if the Broncos lose. Probably sexual assault is the least reported (form of domestic violence).”
On the other end of the county, Nancy Richardson is involved with the Meeker Safe House.
“We currently have three advocates. We provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and other additional crimes that are covered under the Victim Rights Act.
“Safe House provides temporary housing, assistance with transportation like out of town, we provide assistance going through the court system,” Richardson said.
As far as the extent of domestic violence on the east end of the county, Richardson said, “It ebbs and flows. When we have a greater population, especially a transient population, like we did during the energy boom, it tends to become higher, and especially those times of year that are more stressful. Come the holiday season, domestic violence really increases.”
Rangely’s Sandy McKelvey knows about domestic violence from firsthand experience.
“I am survivor myself,” she said. “That’s why I became a victim advocate. It’s very humbling, and it’s pretty tough work, but I really enjoy it.”
Because of her own situation, McKelvey understands what women who are abused are going through, and what kind of help they need.
“It helps (to have her own story to tell), so they don’t think they are alone, but we try not to focus on ourselves. We are there for support,” she said. “You wake up one day and realize, how did I get here? It’s humiliating. I was a very independent person, but to be in that situation — I wasn’t physically abused, but it was coming — to get to that point of how did I get in this dungeon and how do I get out, it’s a long road. It’s a tough road. But that’s what the advocates do.
“It’s really rewarding work,” she said. “I do it because so many people helped me when I was going through it.”
Rangely Victim Services has a volunteer board of directors and is part of network along with other victim services groups in the Ninth Judicial District, including Meeker’s Safe House organization.
“We’re basically here for support,” McKelvey said. “We’re available for being a victim advocate. Sometimes a person just needs someone to sit with them in court. We’re kind of a loose organization. We have a safe house in town, but we don’t have a hotline. The board is wanting to move to becoming more proactive, like we’re working on teen violence. We’d like to go into the schools and give a presentation on dating and what’s a healthy relationship. And we’re looking at expanding a little more and getting an actual physical space (for an office). That’s the hope.”
Office or no office, hotline or no hotline, McKelvey and other victim service volunteers in Rio Blanco County will continue to promote domestic violence awareness.
And not just in October. But throughout the year.
“It’s just a good organization,” she said. “We’re just trying to make everybody aware there is help.”
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Election Day is less than a month away.
“This one will be a polling place election as current statute does not provide for a general election to be held by mail ballot,” said County Clerk Nancy Amick. “Mail-in ballots (formerly known as absentee) were sent Tuesday to those who have requested their ballot by mail, approximately 1,400, which is nearly 40 percent of our active registered electors (3,389).”
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Seth Boesch, a 2010 Meeker High School graduate, continues to recover from a serious mountain bike accident. He is a student at Denver University.
“He broke his hip mountain biking at Winter Park and had to have emergency surgery,” said his step-mom Margot Robb. “His bone marrow was exposed through his back, so they had to really clean that out. Recovery time is critical right now (big fear of infection). He’s in pain and needs lots of rest, which is hard to do with a full load of classes). We appreciate all the people that have reached out.”
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Local events are planned for Halloween, which falls on a Sunday this year.
“We have a couple of activities planned for Halloween,” said Eric Hejl of the Rangely Recreation Center staff. “The first is called ‘Grosser than gross,’ where the kids make things like cookies that look like severed fingers and things like that. That one is for second- through sixth-graders and is on Friday, Oct. 22 at 11 a.m. The other activity is our Halloween Howl-a-baloo. This one is for kids 4 years old through second grade. They dress up in their costumes and take pictures at the rec center, then go to Main Street and trick or treat at several businesses. Then they return to to rec center for snacks games. This will be on Friday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
The Meeker Recreation Center will also have a Halloween event on Friday, Oct. 29.
“This year there will not be a formal parade, but there will be a costume contest at the old MES at 3 p.m.,” said Sandra Johnson of the recreation staff. “Interested Main Street businesses will then hand out treats to trick-or-treaters.”
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A question arose recently about whether the Rangely School Board was within its rights to appoint Matt Scoggins, who was term limited and unable to run in the November 2009 election, to fill a seat on the board vacated by the resignation of Teri Holcomb. The board appointed Scoggins Nov. 16 last year.
Darryl Farrington, an attorney in Denver who represents the school board, said the board acted within the law.
“There’s a formal opinion of the AG (attorney general), I think it was shortly after the term limits to the constitution were passed right around 2000, in which the AG gave an opinion, which is binding, meaning it has the weight of law, in which there’s a provision concerning term limits that a term does not include anything less than a full term,” Farrington said.
“You could still be appointed to a partial term, because that doesn’t apply as a term. It’s relatively common to appoint people to a vacancy that the person serves out the balance of the term in which they are appointed. Then they are entitled to run for two subsequent terms. That first one (partial term) doesn’t count as a term,” Farrington said.
“Given the opportunity, it is perfectly legal as long as the AG is right, but I’m not going to second guess that … I had a discussion with the people at CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards). They don’t really want to weigh in on it, but they couldn’t give me any arguments why it was wrong.
“It’s very common to reappoint people who have been term limited off a board … because that service doesn’t count as a term. It’s the same as if they had sat out (a term). … The board is not under an obligation, once the vacancy has occurred, the board can appoint whoever they want, including the person that served,” Farrington said.
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Walking to a meeting one night last week, I had what appeared to be an elementary school student — I couldn’t tell for sure because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and it was dusk — say to me, “Hi, Mr. Hightower.”
I just smiled, waved back and said hi.
Jason Hightower is the principal of Meeker Elementary School and my neighbor. I took the case of mistaken identity as a compliment.
I’m not sure how Jason would feel about it.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.