The woman had been cut off from friends and family, her relationship had become severely abusive, and she had nowhere to turn.
She went to Turning Point, a nonprofit organization focused on preventing and eliminating domestic violence, for help with finding the resources she needed to restart her life outside of the abusive relationship she had been in.
The woman’s story is like so many others who are helped by Turning Point each year. In 2016, the organization that is funded by the United Way of Johnson County helped 254 people, up from 185 the year before, community services director Nicole Emerson said.
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That one woman’s story helped open case worker Kimberly Beck’s eyes to the overall issue of domestic violence and the situations people are put into, such as why someone would stay with their abuser, she said.
“I knew from my education, but I had not ever seen or dealt with it in person, just how trapped a person can feel,” she said.
“It really opened my eyes, as much as we are doing, we need to be doing more.”
The top needs of the people they help are transportation, child care and housing, with housing being the most critical, Beck said.
Last year, 23 of the people who came to see them for help went to the organization’s shelter in Columbus.
One of the most difficult situations Beck faces is when the organization’s shelter in Columbus is full and so are the shelters they work with in Indianapolis, she said. In many cases, the abuser has cut off their partner from all friends and family, and they have nowhere to go, she said.
“It’s heartbreaking when I have someone in front of me, sometimes with little ones, and they are in danger and she wants to go and needs a place to go, but I can’t find a place for her,” Beck said.
In addition to housing, Turning Point also helps with arranging child care, transportation, financial assistance and finding work, Beck said.
In some cases, the abuser may not have allowed their partner to work, and in others, the abuser may have refused to work, leaving their partner working multiple jobs but still struggling financially.
“It can go from one extreme to another and everything in between,” Beck said.
Turning Point works with other local organizations, including Access Johnson County for transportation, ASSIST Johnson County for counseling and the No Place to Call Home effort, to help connect the people who come to them looking for help with local services, Emerson said.
With two full-time employees, those partnerships are important, she said. Turning Point might be able to help a family pay rent one time, but through No Place to Call Home, families can get long-term help to address the issues that have led them to become homeless, for example.
Another key way to address the issue of domestic violence long-term is education, Emerson said. The organization’s mission is to work toward the prevention and elimination of dating and domestic violence.
“We don’t only work one on one with the victims, but we also do prevention in the communities,” she said.
One key program that has been implemented in four local middle schools is called Safety, a dating abuse and assault prevention program meant to teach students about boundaries and red flags in relationships. The goal is to not see those students as clients in the future, but if they ever are in an abusive situation, they at least will know where to turn, Emerson said.
The program focuses on middle schoolers because that is when students begin exploring dating and when issues with emotional abuse, bullying and sometimes even physical abuse can begin, she said.
“We want to get that information in their brains before it is starting,” Emerson said.
Another educational program the office is offering is for local bars and restaurants, called Raise the Bar Indiana, which is a sexual assault prevention program for bartenders and other restaurant workers.
Workers are taught how to recognize the signs of a potential sexual assault situation and intervene, such as if someone is ordering a large amount of drinks for another person, but barely drinking themselves, or if a person appears too intoxicated to be able to consent, to try to get them a cab instead of letting them leave with someone they don’t appear to know.
Recently, a new focus has been on organizing a Men Take a Stand event, where officials from local groups and organizations who work with domestic violence cases, such as the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office, go to local sporting events and encourage boys take a pledge to properly treat their significant others, Emerson said.
Overall, the organization wants to make people aware of signs of abuse, and encourage them to speak up if they see something, including hearing someone make sexist comments, and offer support to victims, Beck and Emerson said.
“People worry it will be awkward, but if no one speaks up, it makes them think it’s OK,” Emerson said.
Here is a closer look at Turning Point:
Number of employees: 2 full time
Clients served 2016: 254
Clients served 2015: 185
Placed in shelter: 23
Turning Point is a United Way of Johnson County agency. The United Way of Johnson County funds 18 local nonprofit agencies and operates eight internal programs. United Way and agencies it helps support helped 37,000 Johnson County residents last year.
If you want to donate or begin a giving campaign at your employer or organization, contact the United Way of Johnson County.
Address: 594 Ironwood Drive, Franklin
Phone: (317) 736-7840