A panel of experts met Thursday night to discuss ways to increase community awareness about domestic violence and improve the protective order process in Monroe County. Representatives from the County Prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, courts and the community joined forces to bring domestic violence to the forefront of discussion.
The issue is one on which Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins hopes to make some progress. A domestic violence survivor herself, Robbins says talking about domestic violence is the first step in solving it.
“It’s kind of like a silent disease out there – nobody wants to talk about it,” Robbins says. “Because of my experience, I am completely driven to make this something that won’t embarrass anybody. Maybe if I come forth and say something, then other people will be willing.”
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in twenty men will experience domestic violence in his or her lifetime. More than 16,000 homicides occur annually as a direct result of domestic violence, in addition to 2.2 million treated injuries costing more than $37 billion.
In Indiana, 64 people died as a result of domestic violence in 2012. The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported serving nearly 11,000 victims in emergency shelters last year, in addition to responding to more than 63,000 crisis hotline calls.
Toby Strout, Executive Director of Middle Way House, said domestic violence isn’t simply something that just happens “out there” somewhere – it can and does happen in many neighborhoods, including Monroe County.
“I think we always have a tendency to think ‘well other people do that,’” Strout said. “If we’ve learned anything at all over the years that we’ve been studying this issue, it’s that there really are no groups that are immune from experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence.”
In partnership with Middle Way, the county prosecutor, the Indiana University Protective Order Project and IU School of Social Work, Robbins says staff has worked to make resources more readily available in her office, where people file for protective orders.
In 2011, before starting the initiative, 54 percent of all requested were granted. That number has since gone up to 89 percent – an increase which Robbins calls “a huge bump.”
“This has been a huge success for our community so far,” Robbins said. “If someone comes in and needs to file a protective order, they can come in here with dignity, have somebody that will listen to them and have resources available immediately.”
Indiana State Police Deputy Kevin Getz says the program is making strides, but there is still more that can be done about domestic violence.
“I can’t say we’re going to completely eliminate this problem – we probably won’t. But we now have tools in place to lessen the impact on our community.”