Zonta Club honors women who work against violence
It wasn’t that long ago when Jamie Rindahl, president of the Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Society, was looking for help to get out of an abusive relationship.
“I knew there was some help there, I just didn’t know how much help there was,” she said.
As she sat at the at the Hilands Golf Club looking around at the other 19 honorees and their guests at the Status of Women luncheon hosted by the Zonta Club of Billings, she was taken aback.
“There’s quite a few faces that I recognize that helped me get to where I am today,” she said. “I’m honored to be with them.”
The Billings club is a chapter of Zonta International, an advocacy group that works to advance the status of women worldwide.
This year’s group of women were recognized because of their help advocating for other women who have been victims of domestic violence, said Darcie Howard, chapter vice president.
Rindahl said she was in the relationship for roughly 10 years before she was able to leave her abuser.
After breaking free, the mother of two began to use her experiences to help others in similar situations.
She organized “Running Out Of Silence,” an awareness-raising fun run, “to celebrate survivors and hope and pray for those who are out there suffering,” she said.
Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Society, designed to organize and raise funds for “Running Out of Silence,” grew out of the project and has now incorporated events throughout the year.
“It’s been a lot of work,” she said, but it’s worth it. “We need to figure out a way to prevent this.”
Advocates from all over the state of Montana were in attendance to recognize the group. The diverse group included law enforcement officials, victim’s advocates, clergy and health care workers.
One in three women will be victims of domestic violence, and Zonta has made it their goal this year to spotlight the issue, Howard said.
This year, the club gave donations to the YWCA’s Gateway House, made blankets that were put in Billings police cars for victims to feel safe after traumatic events and held art classes for victims to help them heal.
It’s part of a campaign called, “Zonta says No,” Howard said.
The campaign couldn’t come at a more important time for Billings.
“There’s been a spike in violent crime,” said Carrie Wright, a sexual assault nurse examiner clinician and program coordinator at Billings Clinic. In 2012 and 2013, “Our caseload is up 47 percent.”
Sexual assault nurse clinicians are registered nurses who are trained to collect forensic evidence from victims of sexual assault. They also are trained to help victims get the help they need so they can bring their abuser to justice.
Early in Wright’s career as a registered nurse, she encountered a patient who had also been a victim of domestic violence. The woman was unable to get a forensic examination because it was a busy day in the emergency room and the physician didn’t do the exam.
“After waiting for hours, the patient, out of frustration, just left,” she said.
The program works to prevent that from happening by giving victims the help they need.
“Hopefully that will provide the first step toward healing,” she said.
The program has on-call volunteer nurses all over the state, and three organized programs at hospitals in Missoula, Billings and Kalispell.
“It takes the right nurse, a compassionate nurse,” she said. “I’m proud of them.”