VINCINNES IND. (May 9, 2013)—The Knox County Sheriff’s Office 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.
Knox County Sheriff Mike Morris says his officers respond to about 30 domestic disturbances a month. He says most of the time they find children present.
“Domestic violence is an ongoing problem that many times is fueled by the use of methamphetamines. And when meth and domestic violence mix, it can mean injuries or even death,” said Sheriff Morris. “When officers respond to a domestic violence dispute and find children present, it can be a very difficult situation. It’s so hard to imagine what those innocent kids must feel when they see their parents fighting.”
Sheriff Morris says sometimes domestic violence puts public safety at risk, too. He says it’s not uncommon for his officers to respond to domestic disputes occurring while parents are driving. “These 9-1-1 calls are particularly distressing because we’ll get word of a car driving erratically on Highway 41 and when we stop the vehicle, we find a mom and a dad have been physically fighting while dad is attempting to drive. And there are usually small children in the back seat.”
Knox County DCS Director Melanie Flory has seen first-hand the devastating consequences domestic violence has on families and children in particular. “When children witness domestic violence, it can impact them both physically and psychologically,” said Flory. “Children learn what they live and when they grow up in a home where domestic violence is a way of life, they may repeat those behaviors when they become adults and have their own children. We’ve got to stop that cycle.” Flory reports that domestic violence accounts for nearly 50 percent of her child abuse or neglect caseloads in Knox County.
Marcie Arango, Director of Hope’s Voice, a referral and resource agency for victims of domestic violence, says the first step in combating the problem is people cannot be afraid to speak out against it. “We’re a polite society and too many of us believe it is rude to get involved in someone else’s business, especially their home life. But until these perpetrators are told their behavior is unacceptable, they’re going to continue terrorizing children.”
Hope’s Voice offers a variety of services to assist in the fight against domestic violence. Besides helping to find safe shelter for a parent and children living in a domestic violence home, the agency can provide legal advocacy for protective orders or court appearances, help with medical referrals or day care for children. “It takes more than just one person or one organization to combat this problem,” said Arango. “Domestic violence affects the entire community and it takes the whole community working together to help solve the problem.”
Sheriff Morris agrees that one of the most important ways to help protect children is for citizens to step up and report adult behaviors that may indicate domestic violence is going on. Hearing yelling or screaming in a house should be a cue to notify law enforcement. “Our officers can’t be everywhere so we must rely on Knox County citizens to be our eyes and ears,” said Morris. “Please, for the sake of blameless children that may be living in a domestic violence home, if you see or hear something, say something.”
Urgent domestic violence episodes should be reported to 9-1-1. The sheriff’s department may be reached at 812.882.7660. Hope’s Voice offers a 24-hour crisis line at 812.899.HOPE (4673).
DCS Director Flory says it is essential that community members help protect children. “In our state, all citizens are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect,” she said. “We depend on neighbors, friends and family members to be first responders in helping to protect children.” She also offered some tips about observations that might 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 has puzzling wounds such as numerous bruises.
· Behavior – Child is excessively shy or won’t play with other kids.
· Hygiene – Children always seem to have body odor, dirty clothes, disheveled hair.
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.