Falmouth Police Officer Amanda Hogg has created a giving tree to support victims of domestic violence. Contributed

FALMOUTH — Abusers often retain control by cutting off access – to money, to phones and vehicles, according to law enforcement officials. That’s why it’s critical for victims of domestic violence and abuse to have other avenues for acquiring a cell phone or a gas gift card or even food.

Knowing this, and wanting to raise awareness about the needs of domestic violence victims while also giving back to her community, Officer Amanda Hogg came up with the idea for the Falmouth Police Department’s first-time giving tree.

The tree is located in the lobby of the police station, at 2 Marshall Drive, and donations of new, unwrapped items will be accepted through Dec. 26. Ornaments on the tree are labeled with a variety of wish-list items, from phones and gift cards to crockpots and flannel pajamas.

Wish-list items for victims of domestic violence include vital items like cell phones to comforting sleepwear like flannel pajamas. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Already there is a pile of donations under the tree and Lt. Frank Soule said more are coming in every day.

“When people are making a life change, they have a lot of needs and everyday items are not necessarily thought of,” he said. “We’ve not done a giving event like this before, which is one reason the chief was totally on board with the idea.”

The donations will be distributed by Through These Doors, the domestic violence resource center for Cumberland County, which also partners with Falmouth Police when they respond to a domestic violence call.

Jen Annis, the Enhanced Police Intervention Collaboration coordinator at Through These Doors, said the organization is “very thankful the Falmouth Police Department took the initiative to go above and beyond” with the giving tree.

“It can be hard to think of your own safety when you can’t meet your basic needs,” she said. “People always need things like phones, gas and diapers.”

“The statistics are so high for domestic abuse that in our lifetime everyone of us will know someone who’s been personally affected,” she added, which is one reason why it’s so important for victims not to feel “so isolated” and to know that help is available.

In Falmouth, Soule said the department gets between five and 10 calls a month for what he termed “domestic disturbances.” Not all of them end in an arrest, he said, while noting that domestic violence and abuse is something that “every community deals with.”

“Often the process (of reporting) scares people, that’s why we want to create as much awareness as we can,” Soule said of the giving tree.

He said that Through These Doors always follows up “quite quickly” when the police contact them about a situation and the agency is also able to provide a variety of resources, from emergency shelter to court advocacy.

Statewide in 2018, Annis said that domestic violence advocates worked with 14,351 individuals and Through These Doors itself worked with 3,403 of those. That number represents a significant increase from the number of people the organization helped just three years ago. In 2015, Annis said, Through These Doors worked with 2,558 people requesting help.

Meanwhile, she said, studies continue to show that domestic violence and abuse is vastly underreported across the country.

“What we want people to know is that domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or their socio-economic situation. We also know that people who suffer from verbal or psychological abuse often don’t identify what they’re experiencing as abuse,” Annis said.

So it’s important, she said, that people know “they can reach out for support, because even verbal or coercive abuse can be just as damaging as any other type.” Annis said that Through These Doors offers free, 24/7, confidential services that anyone can access.

What’s equally important, she said is that “we hold the offenders accountable” and that “we don’t excuse the behavior.”

Annis said the holidays can be a particularly difficult and challenging time for someone experiencing abuse, because there are all the pressures associated with “merry making,” keeping the family together and feeling more financially strapped because of gift giving and other expenses.

Hogg is the only full-time female police officer in the Falmouth department and she’s been on the job just about a year. This week she said that one reason she was attracted to Falmouth is the chief’s commitment to community engagement.

Hogg wanted to create the giving tree to make a positive difference and also to let victims of abuse know that the Police Department is there for them, “to provide support and not to judge and to be part of their support network,” she said.

“I just want people to know they can ask for help,” Hogg said.

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