BROOKVILLE, IND. (April 18, 2013)—The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and 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.
Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy says his officers respond to about 25 domestic disturbances a month. He says most of the time, they find children present.
“Domestic violence cuts a wide swath across our community and it has a very detrimental effect on everybody involved, especially children,” said Sheriff Murphy. “In far too many families it has become a generational problem in which violence is the learned way to handle anger and stress. This cycle needs to end so we can protect our children from these harmful environments.”
Franklin County DCS Director Erin Lambert has seen first-hand the devastating consequences domestic violence has on families and children in particular. “Witnessing domestic violence can have a huge impact on children, both physically and psychologically,” said Lambert. “They may grow up believing that domestic violence is normal and mimic the behaviors they witnessed in their parents’ relationship.” Lambert reports that domestic violence accounts for nearly 40 percent of her child abuse or neglect caseloads in Franklin County.
Jane Yorn, Executive Director for Safe Passage, Inc., a Batesville non-profit that operates a 24-bed shelter for victims of domestic violence, says the shelter has been running at capacity for most of the last two years. “Domestic violence has become an epidemic in southeast Indiana. We had a 200-percent increase in services to Franklin County residents from 2011 to 2012,” said Yorn.
In addition to the shelter, Safe Passage offers domestic violence intervention and prevention assistance to the residents of Franklin and four surrounding counties. But according to Yorn, part of the reason the cycle of domestic violence continues is many people are not aware those services are readily available. “Too many folks, especially those living with domestic violence, simply don’t know there is help out there.”
Sheriff Murphy says one of the most important ways to help protect children is to step up and report adult behaviors that may indicate domestic violence is present. Loud screaming coming from the house next door should be a cue to notify a law enforcement agency. “Our mantra needs to be ‘if you see or hear something, say something,’” said Murphy. “If we see a child in our town that needs help, we should feel empowered and comfortable in saying something. We can’t ignore domestic violence any longer.”
Urgent domestic violence episodes should be reported to 9-1-1. The sheriff’s department may be reached at 647.4138. Safe Passage offers a toll-free 24-hour help line at 877.733.1990.
DCS must rely on community members to help protect children. In Indiana, all citizens are required to report incidents of child abuse and neglect. Lambert 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:
· School – Abrupt changes in a child’s academic performance.
· Attention – Child has difficulty concentrating.
· Behavior – Sudden changes in a child’s demeanor: withdrawn or overly aggressive.
· 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 has puzzling wounds such as numerous bruises.
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.