Making the public aware of the problems of domestic violence that are becoming commonplace in society, a panel of experts who work in the field addressed the public Monday evening.
With October noted as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office along with The Beaman Home, Ivy Tech Community College and the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition joined forces to present a Community Resource Fair Event at Ivy Tech Community College last night. The forum was aimed at breaking the silence of domestic violence.
Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton told about 50 people who gathered for the informational meeting, that his office deals with at least one case of domestic violence every day. In Indiana, domestic violence crimes include battery, intimidation, harassment, criminal trespass, kidnapping, strangulation, criminal confinement and stalking. “So that’s at least 365 cases a year,” said Hampton, but in reality it’s more than that.”
Hampton was also asked to address why his office provides accused offenders with so many plea agreements. The purpose, he said, is to save the county money and to keep cases moving. “There are 900 felony cases a year and 5,000 misdemeanors,” he said, explaining that the court dockets just cannot handle that kind of load if every case had to be tried.
Superior Court III Judge Joe Sutton was also part of Monday night’s forum and added, “There is a criminal rule that says all cases must be prosecuted in 12 months or they can be dismissed, so the plea agreements become necessary.”
Other panelists included State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, Beaman Home Outreach Advocate April Slone, Winona Lake Police Chief Paul Schmitt and Lynne Eberle, director of emergency care center at Kosciusko Community Hospital.
Kubacki told of her own experience growing up watching her own father abuse her mother. As a state lawmaker, she said, “For the first time, Indiana is finally seeing how domestic violence affects so many … I’m committed to focus on children and families.”
Eberle explained that, in the ER, doctors and nurses are trained to know what domestic abuse looks like. “The abuser usually comes and does the speaking for the victim,” she explained. “We do our best to separate them and, if children come, they can be very helpful.”
Tracie Hodson of The Beaman Home also provided the audience with information about the services provided to both women and men. Although the current facility cannot house men, Hodson said the services and classes provided are available to men of abuse and The Beaman Home works with a local hotel that can accommodate them if they need to escape an abusive situation.
The strongest message of the evening, however, was a personal message delivered by a young woman named Tabitha. Tabitha told her story of growing up in an abusive home and then enduring a relationship of her own in which she was threatened with a gun on more than one occasion. “When I finally made the decision to leave, I took my girls to a friends and went back to our home to get our things. That nearly proved to be a fatal mistake,” she said.
Tabitha ran from the home when her boyfriend began loading a shotgun and laughing. “I knew this time was going to be different,” she said. “I knew he was going to kill me.” She ran from the home and neighbors called police. “He went to prison for 5 years, but I still worry he will come after us.”
The message of the evening was to inspire victims of abuse to get out of their situations and seek help. Hampton explained that victims are “never alone. There is someone with you every step of the way” when victims reach out.
To learn more about domestic violence and how to escape it, contact The Beaman Home at 574-267-7701. To report any type of domestic violence crime, call your local law enforcement agency.