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Editorial: Resources here to help domestic abuse victims

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The recent deaths of an Edinburgh couple has raised anew the issue of potentially dangerous relationships.

But the public isn’t powerless when it comes to domestic violence.

Women who try to leave are 75 percent more likely to be injured or killed, and societal pressure can shame a victim into downplaying what’s happened to them.

Throughout Johnson County, a network of support is available to help women facing domestic violence, but persuading them to take those steps can be extremely difficult, experts said.

Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said: “Oftentimes, women don’t and won’t separate from that relationship because there are too many challenges to separate. It could mean the loss of the individual’s job. It could be intervention of the department of child services in the family. There are so many barriers and reasons why she wouldn’t.”

Emergency shelters, assistance filing charges against their attacker and work to get a protective order are all options for the victims of abuse in their home. For women suffering from domestic violence in Johnson County, professionals at Turning Point can help provide guidance, counseling and advice outlining the victims’ options.

They can stay in an emergency shelter if their home is no longer safe. Counselors can meet with the women and their children in the home to discuss safety planning.

“We help them work through the process of getting safe. We provide them with the direct connection to the resources they need to get out of their situation,” said Lisa Shafran, president of Turning Point. But Turning Point staff can’t force a woman to call the police or press charges, Shafran said. That decision is up to the victim.

Law enforcement officers face a difficult situation with domestic violence. Often, the victims no longer want the police involved after initially calling, Edinburgh Police Chief David Mann said. The next day, people get upset when police have arrested someone after a domestic violence incident, and they want the police to drop the charges, but they won’t, Mann said.

“Domestic violence incidents are dangerous, and they are taken seriously,” Mann said.

Turning Point case workers will follow up with women who reach out to them, particularly in situations where victims were threatened or physically harmed. But if the victim doesn’t want to pursue steps to remedy the situation, there is little else to be done, Shafran said.

Those closest to the victims likely have seen the effects of abuse over a long period of time, Berry said. Friends and family will feel the need to take steps to remove the abuser from the home and offer assistance, but they must be careful when doing so.

The proper response for friends and family is to be supportive, stressing to the abused woman that she has the right to live her life free of violence and recommending services to help. Supporting the victim while they go through the difficult process of the criminal charges is also very important, Berry said.

Domestic violence can make people feel powerless, but there are some simple things you can do to help.

First, by supporting the annual United Way campaign, needed financial resources can be channeled to programs like Turning Point, which can intervene when possible and help abused spouses.

Second, when you replace your cellphone, donate the old one to a program that gives phones to spouses in a potentially dangerous situation. The phones can be used to call 911, but other calls cannot be made, and all personal information is erased.

Friends, family and members of the public should not intervene directly in a dangerous situation, but by offering ongoing support in a variety of ways, the community can help abused spouses.

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