(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles by guest writer, Christopher Yingling, Marketing Intern at The Beaman Home. The series is intended to shed light on the issue of domestic violence in our community.)
Even in smaller cities like Warsaw and Winona Lake, domestic violence is strong and is negatively affecting families. Paul Schmitt, Chief of Police for the Winona Lake Police Department, has seen these cases happen in Winona Lake throughout in his 38 years in law enforcement work.
“Typically, we respond to one or two cases of domestic battery per week, but sometimes it’s more than that,” said Schmitt. “Sometimes, we get cases of domestic violence that don’t include physical marks or abuse, but stuff like stalking. Some guys just don’t get the hint that the girl doesn’t want him anymore.”
Schmitt then went on to describe the sequence of events when responding to a domestic violence call.
“Once we’re there, we’re going to assess the situation based on the things we see. If the victim has marks or children crying, we’ll handle it differently based on the factors present,” said Schmitt.
“Normally, we’ll arrest the perpetrator if there is probable cause, which can include marks on the body or statements from the victims, children or witnesses present.”
In some cases, physical abuse isn’t the issue and the police are called in to break up a yelling match. “If it’s just verbal, we’ll try and separate them for the evening. No laws have been broken there, just screaming and yelling between the two. Then we suggest they talk to our advocate in Winona Lake or phone the Beaman Home crisis line. Both are available at any time,” he said.
“If the victims need counseling, we’ll call in an advocate . Then, we provide the victims with a written copy of their rights. It’s everything they’ll need to know on one sheet of paper. “The perpetrators are booked, and held in jail for an amount of time based on the offense. They are then eligible to bond out.”
Schmitt pointed out that there are certain periods of the year in which the number of cases rise based on circumstances with school and work.
“We see increases of reported domestic violence over the holidays or holiday weekends. I think it’s about visitation, a victim is too late bringing the kids home, won’t let a spouse have the kids, things like that.”
Schmitt also stressed the importance of handling domestic violence now before the trait gets passed on to the children in the abusive home.
Seeking the counsel of an advocate is critical.
“I’ve been in police work for 38 years and I’m now seeing the third generation of domestic violence victims becoming perpetrators,” Schmitt said. “It’s learned from parents. If you grow up watching your dad hit your mom, there’s a good chance that hitting your wife someday might happen if there is not an intervention.”
Schmitt sees how services like those offered at The Beaman Home can help victims in the community get away from the abuse. He understands it’s tough to draw away from it but wants victims to know law enforcement is there to help them.
“I think people hesitate because they’re thinking ‘What am I going to do?’ They’re taking a big step of courage into the unknown. We know they’ll be afraid, but they can step out and know people are there to help them,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to report it. It’s important to get the message out there that there are services and people to help. Services domestic violence victims need are available.”
Issues faced by local law enforcement are echoed around our area. Domestic violence victims are everywhere working up the courage to take that first step. For nearly 30 years, Beaman Home has provided shelter and supporting outreach services to domestic violence victims residing in Kosciusko, Fulton and Marshall Counties. Advocates answer the crisis hotline 24/7 and there will be a professional to talk with any victim about her/his options. Simply phone toll free (877) 725-9363.
The Beaman Home’s plans for an enlarged Emergency Shelter and Outreach Center will provide not only sufficient space in which to shelter victims and their children for years to come, but also provides services to empower them to take that step into a violence-free lifestyle.
Beaman is in the final stages of raising the funds necessary to build the new facility on North Parker Street in Warsaw. You can help. Donations to build and furnish the new facility are being accepted now.
To learn more about Beaman’s plans or to make a contribution to help build the new Emergency Shelter and Outreach Center, call (574) 372-3503 or visit Beaman’s website at www.thebeamanhome.com.