Claire and Peter Roise have found a passion for bringing awareness to a difficult topic that many people are reluctant to even discuss. Over the past three years, the couple has worked to become advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, they officially launched their nonprofit organization, Awaken Network, which provides another resource for those seeking help from an abusive situation.

"We don't provide all of the resources, but we certainly try to connect people with the resources," Claire said, adding that they work closely with organizations such as Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.

In 2015, Claire and Peter were approached by a close friend who confided in them about the abusive relationship she had with her husband. At a loss for how to handle what they had learned, Claire said, she and Peter started researching. They searched for better ways they could help their friend, which in turn grew into understanding how can they help others who find themselves in abusive situations.

That eventually led them to start Awaken Network.

Claire and Peter said their message was eagerly accepted by their pastor, Aaron Couch, at Real Life Church on the Palouse. Together with Shari Hall, the church's Celebrate Recovery coordinator, they developed ways they can help friends and family of abuse victims and victims themselves - even the abusers - connect with resources to better understand and handle their situations and behaviors.

"Awareness is really where we can put effort and know that we are making an impact," said Peter, a professional photographer.

Over the past three years, they have worked to find solutions to abusive situations before the abuse gets to the "acute stages" when the authorities, the legal system and shelters are involved.

Real Life Church "has really thrown their full weight behind this passion that we have," Claire said.

"We couldn't do this without them," Peter added.

In March, the couple held their first conference where they discussed what friends and family can do if they know a loved one is in an abusive situation and how to recognize the early signs. Nearly 200 members of the Real Life Church congregation attended the conference, the couple said.

Since the fall of 2016, Claire and Peter have also attended conferences around the country to gain a better understanding of abuse and obtain certifications to become support group facilitators.

To "keep the conversation going," the couple has held breakout sessions at the Real Life Church, where they discuss topics ranging from spotting red flags while in a dating relationship and identifying ways to have a healthy relationship.

Recordings of each breakout session can be found on the Awaken Network website: awakenidaho.com.

Claire and Peter have also helped start a local support group for women who are victims of domestic abuse, as well as a trauma recovery support group.

In less than a month, Peter and Claire said they hope to hold their first batterers intervention group, a support group for men who abuse. Finding a curriculum was not an easy task, Peter said, but eventually he found training in Duluth, Minn. He attended and was certified to be a facilitator for a men's group.

"Working with abusers is extremely difficult, and its not very successful to be completely honest. But it has to be done," Peter said. "Whenever you change one abuser, you stop a stream. If he really changes, instead of having another series of destructive relationships, he can have a healthy relationship. It's hard work, but its not impossible work."

Social media has been an essential tool in reaching abuse victims, Claire said. In addition to holding breakout sessions and support groups, Claire said she also runs a Facebook page and a blog to connect with people around the Palouse and even throughout the country.

Peter said he has been in contact with a pastor in Denver who is on a similar path, and Claire said she has even helped an abuse victim find resources in Southern California.

Claire and Peter said not only have they helped victims get out of abusive situations, they have also grown in their own relationship.

"Understanding what abusive situations look like in the most extreme cases has helped me understand ways in which we accept coercive behavior and normalize it in our own lives," Peter said.

"It's been huge for us and our parenting," Claire said. "It's been a very take down, deconstruct who you are, build back up again process."


Katie Short can be reached at (208) 883-4633, or by email to kshort@dnews.com.

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