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By Connie Leinbach
Hyde County Hotline Inc. has expanded its services with a client services advocate on Ocracoke. Brenda Kremser is an advocate for victims of abuse, no matter what the age or gender.
“It’s nice for victims to have someone on their side,” she said in a recent interview.
Hotline, based in mainland Hyde, offers 24-hour counseling and help for victims of abuse of any kind.
“Sexual assault happens to every race, creed, income bracket and religion,” she said. “It’s everywhere.”
Kremser’s immediate mission is to build a multi-disciplinary team on the island among law enforcement, first-responders, medical professionals and the clergy who can muster in times of crisis and who can also be trained in the signs of abuse and even human trafficking.
This team will be a key component of her work for which Hotline has been awarded a year-long grant.
“I want to build a team so they can be aware of what abuse looks like and the appropriate responses,” she said, whether it’s being threatened physically, emotionally or verbally.
The first thing victims worry about is “Who’s going to believe me?”
So, believing the victim is key to healing after abuse. Otherwise, the victim returns to the abuser because the victim feels they have nowhere else to go, Kremser said.
That’s why community education is critical to the success of her work.
“The purpose is to eliminate domestic violence and sexual victimization in the home,” she said. “If you have a safer home, you’ll have a safer community.”
The trauma of abuse, such as a child seeing a mother being abused, can have long-term effects, she said. Growing up around that kind of behavior then conveys that hitting girls is OK.
And if victims are silent, abuse continues.
“It’s difficult to make a difference, if victims remain silent,” she said, granting that it’s not always easy for victims to do that or to escape, especially if the victim doesn’t have means or money to do so.
Abuse doesn’t always leave marks on your body.
“Emotional abuse leaves scars on your mind and heart,” she said.
Bullying, too, is a form of abuse and Kremser said Hotline advocates will visit Ocracoke School on this topic.
“Children need to know that bullying is not OK,” she said.
Kremser, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Mississippi, is an Air Force veteran, has worked in child psychiatry, as a portrait photographer and as an accountant.
As soon as someone has an issue, Kremser urges them to call the HOTLINE at 252-925-2500.
“Helping a person escape the patterns of abuse, whether domestic violence in the home or bullying on the playground, can have a lifetime effect,” she said.
She is available to make presentations to groups so to educate the community about abuse issues.