Former Turning Point director Kris Thompson and new Turning Point director Kiley Taggart. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Theresa Davis)
Kris Thompson is retiring after 27 years with The Turning Point of Lincoln County. The Turning Point is a program that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Thompson visited with the Gazette and reflected on her time at Turning Point and what set her on the path to this career.
“My earliest memories of my mother are her being beaten up by my birth father and us kids hiding until she told us it was safe to come out,” Thompson said. “When she finally divorced my father, she had black eyes, broken ribs and was pregnant.”
She said this childhood experience influenced her decision to work at Turning Point.
“I wanted to be the one to help someone else,” Thompson said. “Before places like this opened, there was really no place to go, and no one to help women who were in an abusive relationship.”
According to Thompson, this motivation isn’t unusual for people who work with domestic violence victims.
“Most people do these jobs because they have some kind of personal experience with these issues,” Thompson said. “The job is long hours, it doesn’t pay a lot, and it’s heartbreaking work.”
Thompson grew up in American Fork, Utah. She moved to Kemmerer in 1981 when her husband got a job at the power plant.
She started at Turning Point as the office manager in 1990, and then took over as Executive Director in 1996.
Thompson said she is looking forward to retirement and spending time with her husband, kids and six grandkids.
“We want to go to Glacier National Park this summer, but really I’m just looking forward to sleeping in,” Thompson said with a smile.
She also explained what services Turning Point provides. In addition to being a shelter for victims who need to escape a dangerous domestic violence situation, the program also provides other victim resources and educates the community.
All of Turning Point’s services are free and confidential.
“We don’t advocate divorce, we provide options,” Thompson said. “If a woman wants to stay, we help her find ways to stay safe. If she wants to leave, we help her find ways to do that.”
“The biggest thing you need in this job is compassion,” Thompson said. “But the hardest part about our work is learning not to get too emotionally attached.”
Thompson had a banking background and worked for a lawyer before joining Turning Point. She said her financial training has been useful in managing the Turning Point centers in Kemmerer and Afton.
“Even after 27 years, sometimes I still don’t know what to do,” Thompson said. “That’s why it’s important to have such good people around us.”
Thompson said in her work she has often had to confront people’s false perceptions about domestic abuse.
“I wish people understood it’s not the victim’s fault,” Thompson said. “It’s a lot of emotional abuse as well as physical abuse. There’s no black or white in domestic violence. There’s a lot of gray areas and every situation is different.”
Thompson explained that dealing with emotional abuse has been part of some of her most difficult cases.
“I’ve known of several cases where a woman’s husband had convinced her that she absolutely couldn’t live without him, even though she was the one supporting him financially,” Thompson said.
Thompson also discussed another case she worked with where a woman was convinced that if she just did everything her husband wanted — cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids — he wouldn’t hit her, but one night she hadn’t done anything wrong, and she was abused.
“A perpetrator will always have a reason,” Thompson said. “That’s why this place is so important in educating victims and the community that it’s not (the victim’s) fault.”
Thompson has also been involved with Turning Point’s school programs, such as “Be Wise, Beware,” and programs for older children and teenagers that educate about bullying, sexual harassment and healthy relationships.
Turning Point works with local law enforcement agencies to educate about domestic violence and how to stop it, recognize it and report it.
“It’s hard when you lay awake at night, worrying about victims that you know are in danger,” Thompson said. “But when we can help people make changes and make a better life for themselves, that’s when it hits you that this work is worth it.”
Kiley Taggart is taking over as Executive Director of Turning Point of Lincoln County, and Thompson has been helping Taggart make the transition to the position she has held for decades.
“I couldn’t have done it all these years without the wonderful support of the community, wonderful coworkers, and wonderful board members,” Thompson said.
The community is extremely helpful in keeping the program running, according to Thompson.
“Anytime we post on Facebook that we need household items for the shelter or for our victims who are relocating, we get so many responses and offers, it’s incredible,” Thompson said.
For more information about The Turning Point, like their page on Facebook.