In Greenwood last year, police were sent on more than 650 domestic-related calls for help.
In some cases, a battery was reported. In others, the dispute was verbal. After police conduct an investigation and take a report, the victims — men or women who have been assaulted or a victim of verbal abuse — are left to figure out what to do next.
Enter Beacon of Hope.
The Indianapolis non-profit agency that has been helping victims of domestic violence since 2009 recently relocated to the southside and has forged a new relationship with Greenwood police.
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In the hours or days after police take a report of a domestic disturbance, a Beacon of Hope employee contacts the victim, offering help through the process and a path to a life without abuse, be it verbal or physical.
The organization can help victims figure out how to leave, a safety plan, where to house a pet if they are leaving and can’t take the animal with them and how to get a protective order against their abuser, said Sandra Ziebold, the executive director and CEO of Beacon of Hope. The organization already works with other central Indiana police departments and a safe haven and domestic violence support center in Indianapolis called The Julian Center.
“We’re everything but the bed,” Ziebold said.
Here’s how Beacon of Hope works: A Greenwood police officer takes a report of a domestic incident that includes at least verbal, and possibly physical abuse. The officer flags the report, and it is sent in the coming hours and days to Beacon of Hope. Tiffany Wilson, the senior victim advocate, or another employee contacts the victim and explains how Beacon of Hope can help.
Ziebold and Wilson are both victims of domestic violence.
“I want to make sure I empower others not to be in that same type of scenario,” Ziebold said.
Greenwood police have been training its officers on how Beacon of Hope works and how it can help, and the types of reports that should be sent for a referral, said Kortney Burrello, media relations officer for Greenwood police. Victims of all types of abuse can get help from Beacon of Hope.
“It doesn’t have to look a certain way,” Burrello said.
The core goal of the organization and Greenwood police is to empower victims to become independent, free and strong. Statistics show that victims experience domestic violence an average of seven times before he or she takes steps to get out of the relationship. When victims call for help on their own, they leave the situation and relationship in 50 percent of the case. When victims call police to make a report, that typically means they are ready to accept more help, Ziebold said. That’s why the Beacon of Hope contact after a police report is crucial.
“We as officers want them to get out of that (abusive) situation,” Burrello said.
But the victims may not know where to start or see that an escape is possible.
Victims of domestic violence can contact Beacon of Hope directly or call the crisis hotline. Last year, 350 victims in crisis called Beacon of Hope. The hundreds of other victims got help because they were referred by an area police department. Each year, 850 to 1,000 victims are helped.
“Beacon of Hope is a definite start for us,” Greenwood police detective Patti Cummings said. “Countless times, we respond to domestics and there’s not a lot we can do,” Cummings said.
Police officers make arrests in cases of battery and forward the case to the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office. But the Beacon of Hope employees and volunteers help guide the victims and offer them a resource, Cummings said. Victims may be new to the area, hesitant to leave their abuser and uproot their children or unable financially to leave the person, Cummings said. She hopes the community one day has a shelter for domestic violence victims, since the closest shelters are in Columbus and Indianapolis. Victims need to be able to stay in their communities
“Sometimes it is easier to stay where they are and put up with what they put up with,” Cummings said.
Beacon of Hope shows victims the other possibilities. In some cases, victims are given an assessment and a referral to specific help based on their needs. In other cases, employees and volunteers work with victims for years. Counselors work on a contractual basis to help victims cope.
The agency was established by three women in 2007 and opened in 2009. Earlier this year, it moved to a Perry Township location which is on the IndyGo bus line, which is a more central location and makes it easier for victims to come to the eight employees and 15 volunteers. The group’s annual $500,000 budget is funded by local foundations, donations, corporations and grants. The organization has partnered with central Indiana police departments, including Southport police in 2016 and Greenwood police earlier this year.
The organization tracks the types of abuse and other data on every case and sees that as crime increases in Central Indiana, the number of severe cases of domestic violence also increases. They have also noticed a tremendous increase in the number of male victims, Ziebold said.
Greenwood police has always worked with the prosecutor’s office and the services it provides, but welcomed the partnership with Beacon of Hope because its office is two miles from the city, rather than sending domestic violence victims nine miles south to Franklin, Burrello said.
Ziebold also notes the suspected number of unserved victims in Greenwood who need help closer to home. Beacon of Hope is looking to expand its employment program for victims and wants to find partner companies in Johnson County who will work with the organization to offer employment to victims who need help, Wilson said. Their services also include helping with resumes, mock interviews and clothing, all which can help the victim get a job and become independent more quickly, Ziebold said.
Wilson also plans to focus on education in the community, including giving presentations in schools, because kids will model the behaviors they see, she said.
Beacon of Hope was recently approved by the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to train police officers on responding to domestic violence and sexual assault calls.
Greenwood Police Department domestic-related reports
Unknown domestic calls: 298. Arrests: 12
Verbal domestic calls: 164. Arrests: 3
Domestic with battery: 175. Arrests: 32
Unknown domestic calls: 284. Arrests: 25
Verbal domestic calls: 185. Arrests: 3
Domestic with battery: 187. Arrests: 59
Note: Arrests could be related to domestic violence, or for other circumstances, such as possession of drugs or an outstanding warrant
Source: Greenwood Police Department
Beacon of Hope
If you need help or want to offer help as a volunteer or in the form of a donation, here’s what you need to know:
Address: 6920 S. East St., Suite B, Indianapolis, IN 46227
Crisis line: 317-731-6140
Who is helped?
The organization helps victims of domestic and sexual violence.
In March, 84 new victims were helped, and 264 survivors were given follow-up care.
During the first three months of 2017, 224 new victims were helped, and 530 survivors were given follow-up services.
Sponsors are needed for an upcoming fundraising event. The Shampooch Your Pup Charity Dog Wash is planned for June 24.