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Domestic abuse cases ahead of 2011 pace

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On a sunny afternoon, inside a brightly lit Columbus Police Department office, Lt. Matt Myers leaned over a white desk and delivered a clear message:

“We are not going to tolerate domestic violence.”

In just nine months this year, the CPD has made more domestic-violence arrests than for all of last year.

Reports show 74 arrests in 2011. Through September of this year, police have made 75 arrests, and they’re not stopping fighting the fight.

“We take a lot of things very seriously,” said Myers, spokesman for the CPD. “But domestic violence — stopping it — that is one of our big, big programs.”

As it so happens, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Police say people from all walks of life commit acts of abuse.

“Domestic violence can occur anywhere with any type of race and any socioeconomic class of people,” said Lt. Mike Ward, domestic violence coordinator for the CPD. “They can happen in the most wealthiest portions of town and the poorest portions of town.”

It can occur in various ways, too.

Local authorities take mental abuse just as seriously as physical abuse. Domestic threats fall under the same umbrella as domestic battery in the files of Ward’s reports.

As domestic violence coordinator, Ward skims and scans police reports. He looks for repeat names and repeat offenses. He follows up with victims of domestic abuse and ensures they have the tools to escape their troubled lives.

Ward hands victims educational brochures and offers to drive them to the prosecutor’s office or Turning Point, a local emergency shelter for men and women who are victims of domestic abuse.

The main obstacles Ward faces are the barriers that keep victims from leaving abusive households. Some rely on abusive family members for money, while others stay silent fearing retaliation. Many love the very people who are hurting them.

“Many times (victims) will want to recant their story because of all those emotions,” Ward said. “Our goal is not to break up any family. Our goal is to protect life and make sure people stay safe.”

Domestic disputes are messy situations, particularly when children are involved. They are not easy to investigate and not easy to solve.

“You start taking kids from people because of domestic situations,” Myers said. “You start arresting people. It can get very volatile very quickly.”

To avoid such situations, Ward and other members of the Domestic Violence Action Team attempt to stop domestic violence before it starts by visiting middle schools in the community. They use the Safe Dates Prevention Program, a five- or six-day series of lessons, intended to warn youths of the dangers of domestic violence.

Seeking more public outcry, members of the CPD and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, along with City Attorney Kelly Benjamin and Turning Point, are organizing Men’s Stand Against Violence, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Oct. 25 on the steps of City Hall. Men will be invited to speak out.

“It’s kind of a unique approach that men are coming forward and saying, ‘We’re not going to tolerate this in our community,’” Ward said.

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