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Abuse victims often reluctant to seek help


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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.

The shooting of an Edinburgh woman by her estranged husband illustrates the difficulty victims of domestic violence face removing themselves from an abusive situation, said Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against 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.

 

“Oftentimes, women don’t and won’t separate from that relationship because there are too many challenges to separate,” Berry said. “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 the 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, and every situation is different enough that Shafran did not want to generalize their recommendations.

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.

Police will make an arrest if the evidence is there, he said. They encourage victims to participate and cooperate in cases, especially since domestic violence cases tend to escalate, he said.

But it is important in those cases that victims are willing to testify and want the case to be prosecuted, he said.

Too often, though, the victims choose not to, Berry said.

“We should never expect battered women to follow through with charges, because an offender isn’t violent all the time. Afterwards, the perpetrator is sorry, wants to get help, and the woman wants to believe all those things,” she said.

Turning Point caseworkers will follow up with women who reach out to them, particularly in situations where victims were threatened or physically harmed.

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.

“Don’t get directly involved, but call 911. Everyone’s safety needs to be protected. Law enforcement intervention and holding the person accountable, it has reduced domestic violence. It works, but it can be difficult,” she said.

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