PRINCETON, IND. (March 28, 2013)—The Gibson County Sheriff’s Office and the Princeton Police Department, along with the Indiana Department of Child Services, are encouraging community members to step up and report suspected domestic violence. The county is among those Indiana areas battling a high number of domestic violence incidents and the resulting impact they are having on Hoosier children and their families.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement agencies in the county responded to an average of 554 domestic disturbance calls in each of the last three years. Already 113 calls have been received in 2013. Sheriff George Ballard says when officers respond to domestic violence calls, most of the time they find children present.
“An officer never gets used to seeing the scared looks on the faces of kids when that officer responds to a domestic violence call in a home,” said Sheriff Ballard. “And when there’s been physical violence between the parents, the fearful child’s eyes always seem to be asking ‘what’s going to happen to my mom?’ or ‘what’s going to happen to my dad?’ or ‘am I going to be next?’”
Derek McGraw, Detective/Sergeant with the Princeton Police Department, says that drugs are involved in a high number of domestic violence cases in Princeton. “Our city has a severe problem with methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse,” he said. “Too many times, because of drug or alcohol abuse going on in the home, innocent children watch verbal yelling matches between their parents escalate to a physical altercation, and that’s just something a child should never see.”
Gibson County DCS Director Jan Dotson has seen first-hand the devastating consequences domestic violence has on families and especially children. “Domestic violence can have a profound and long-lasting effect on children,” said Dotson. “Sometimes a child will develop a pattern of aggressive behavior. Others will become so introverted they can’t function. Domestic violence affects their whole world.” Dotson reports that domestic violence accounts for about 50 percent of her child abuse or neglect caseloads in Gibson County.
Sheriff Ballard and Detective McGraw say one of the most important ways to help protect children is to step up and report adult behaviors that may be a sign of domestic violence. Screaming or yelling coming from the house next door should be a cue to notify a law enforcement agency. “Reporting is absolutely critical. If we don’t know there’s domestic violence going on, there’s nothing we can do to help,” said Ballard. “The first step is to make that call.”
Urgent domestic violence episodes should be reported to 9-1-1. The sheriff’s office may be reached at 385.3496.
Dotson says it is also important Gibson County residents realize that services to assist adults and children who are victims of domestic violence are readily available. The Albion Fellows Bacon Center in Evansville offers safe shelter as well as counseling, legal advocacy and support groups. A 24-hour domestic violence crisis line is available via the Bacon Center at 800.339.7752.
DCS must rely on community members to help protect children. In Indiana, all citizens are required to report incidents of child abuse and neglect. Dotson said DCS looks to neighbors, friends, family members and other community members as first responders in helping protect children. Since many times children are victims because of domestic violence, she offered these tips about observations that could indicate a child is living with domestic violence:
Possible signs domestic violence may be present in a child’s home:
· Secrecy – Family is secretive; little or no interaction with neighbors.
· Over-obedient – One adult appears to be controlled or dominated by the other.
· Unexplained injuries – One adult is repeatedly bruised or has various other puzzling wounds.
· Behavior – Sudden changes in a child’s demeanor: withdrawn or overly aggressive.
· Poor hygiene – Child always seems to have disheveled hair, dirty clothes, body odor.
Anyone suspecting abuse or neglect should contact the child abuse and neglect hotline at 800.800.5556.
About Indiana Department of Child Services:
DCS is committed to protecting children who are victims of abuse or neglect. The agency's primary goal is to safely keep these children at home with their families by offering appropriate support services. If safety continues to be a concern, children are placed with relatives or in foster care. DCS also oversees adoptions from the foster care system and manages the child support bureau. The Kids First Trust Fund, supported by the sale of 'Kids First' specialty automobile license plates, subsidizes programs designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. Indiana Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline: 800.800.5556 www.in.gov/dcs.