Lending a helping hand

Harlingen VA Clinic offers domestic, intimate partner violence assistance

HARLINGEN — While en route to their appointments and activities, many veterans took a slight detour to a table near the entrance that was covered with purple items and ribbons.

From brochures and cosmetic nail files to ChapSticks and even mints, every item on the table provided information for veterans suffering from domestic or intimate partner violence.

In conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) hosted an outreach event yesterday.

Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) Coordinator Dr. Jan Marie Capaccioli is leading the outreach program and plans to visit all VA Clinics in South Texas this month.

“This is meant to educate everyone including the public, spouses, veterans and even staff,” Capaccioli said. “The goal is to get the word out about the VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program and explain what domestic and intimate partner violence is.”

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence is comprised of four areas — physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression such as intimidation, threats and emotional abuse.

“This can happen in a current relationship or even with an ex-partner, girlfriend or boyfriend,” Capaccioli explained. “Usually, it could start from something very mild and then progress over time into something worse and worse.”

Capaccioli says everyone is at risk for experiencing intimate partner violence no matter their race, religion, sex, gender or income status.

“It could happen to someone that’s very rich or very poor,” she explained. “Some people usually think it only happens to poor people, but that’s not true. It crosses all barriers.”

Capaccioli says some people also have misconceptions about who can become a victim of intimate partner violence.

“People tend to think domestic violence doesn’t happen to men,” she said. “Most of our veterans are male and it does happen to them.”

Veterans seeking help

According to Capaccioli, every VA Clinic offers some type of mental health counseling to veterans, and is able to connect them to someone for care.

“Hopefully, veterans know that they can get help and won’t be afraid to ask,” Capaccioli said. “At least if they pick up something, even just the pen has the national hotline on it so they can call and get assistance.”

Capaccioli says through the outreach events she hopes she can spread the word about resources available to veterans.

“This is very important because what we’re doing is connecting with veterans, their families and even their caregivers,” she said. “We’re here to help.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

For more information about the VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program email program coordinator Dr. Jan Marie Capaccioli at jan.capaccioli@va.gov or call (956) 618-7100, ext. 67092.

SAFETY PLANNING TIPS

• The National Domestic Hotline is (800) 799-7233 or 1-800-787-3234 for deaf or hard of hearing individuals.

• Call 9-1-1 in emergency situations.

• When tensions arise, avoid rooms without outside doors, kitchens and bathrooms, which have weapons, hard surfaces and glass.

• Identify friends or family members you can turn to for help.

• Pack a “go bag” with your ID, important documents, phone numbers, medications, money, keys clothing, etc. and hide it somewhere you can get it quickly.