DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

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Domestic violence affects entire families. The abused spouse, the battering spouse, the children living in the home and even extended families of both parties may sometimes feel the impact. Violence in homes sets the stage for other types of violence in our community. It is paramount that we recognize that these crimes are just as dangerous, if not more so, than street crimes. Homes should not be war zones, but rather an environment where children can thrive and families communicate in emotionally healthy ways.

Domestic violence usually has four distinct stages. These stages are commonly referred to as the Cycle of Violence. The first stage is a period of Tension Building. The battering partner becomes edgy and prone to negativity. Often the abuser becomes very critical of the victim. During this phase the victim frequently recognizes the tension and tries to find ways to smooth over difficult situations. The victim also tries to find ways not to upset the battering partner and to be compliant.

The second phase involves an actual violent outburst with physical violence or self-esteem shattering verbal attacks. The battering partner loses control physically and emotionally. This may last for a few minutes or hours; this is the Crisis Phase. Victims in this situation are generally helpless and plead for the attacks to stop. Children are frightened and learn dangerous lessons that may be applied in their own future relationships. Many times this is the phase where the police or emergency medical providers become involved. This is the opportunity for law enforcement and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to make an impact. We can get involved along with the Victim Assistance Division and supportive community agencies to help victims cope with the situation they are faced with.

The third phase is referred to as the Honeymoon Period. A battering partner typically will show remorse for his/her actions and will go to any length to win back the affection of the victim. This loving respite often may include gifts for the victim and promises to change. The battering partner fears that the victim may leave the relationship. The victim is often relieved that the tension-building stage and the violent episode are over. The fourth stage is the Calm Phase. The batterer acts like the abuse did not happen, and the abuse may indeed be absent for a while. The victim feels that the abuse is over and the batterer has changed. The victim now has a loving family back and many times is not willing to cooperate with law enforcement or prosecution. The Prosecutor’s Office maintains the standard that the State is prosecuting the abuser, not the victim. The decision to file charges is not up to the victim, but rather the prosecuting attorney. In some cases, with good evidence and reliable witnesses we are able to proceed without the cooperation of the victim.

It is important for victims to realize that they must get help for their families. The cycle of abuse usually won't stop without intervention. Especially with the cooperation of the victim, the Prosecutor's Office often can hold offenders accountable by sentencing them to participate in counseling and treatment groups for their problems. This is helpful for the entire family. Counseling is one of the best methods of reducing violence and eliminating fear in homes.

If you are a victim there are many resources to assist you. The best place to start is by calling the Victim Assistance Office at (574) 523-2237. They can help you obtain protective orders, assist you in finding a safe place to stay, such as the women’s shelter, and even help you get information about free support groups for victims and children who are getting out of abusive relationships.

There are a number of dedicated professionals in our community who aid women and children of domestic violence. They are a phone call away: (574) 523-2237.

 

Warning Signs of Abuse

  • Any sort of violent physical contact, such as slapping, shoving pushing, hitting.
  • Verbal threats to harm you, your children, your loved ones or your pets.
  • Any unwanted forced sexual acts.
  • Constant questioning of your whereabouts or excessive control of your daily activities.
  • Withholding of financial support.
  • Ripping out or tapping of telephone lines.
  • Isolating you from family or friends.
  • Self-esteem-zapping comments and degrading insults causing you to feel hopeless and worthless.

The following support resources are available for victims of domestic violence:

Women's Shelter
Phone: (574) 294-1811

The Elkhart County Women's Shelter provides a safe place for victims and children escaping violent households to live, including food and clothing. The shelter is a nondiscriminatory agency that offers services free of charge to victims of family violence and other crimes. Shelter services include crisis intervention, a safe environment for victims and children, counseling and emotional support, a children's program, and services to help with the transition out of an abusive environment.

Victim Assistance Services
Phone: (574) 523-2237

The Victim Assistance Services program offers services free of charge. The program provides support group for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Additional services include answering questions; accompanying victims to the hospital, police station or court; providing information for victims and abusers; and referrals to other support agencies.

The Elkhart County service site offers services for non-residential domestic violence, sexual assault and self-sufficiency. All workshops, classes and groups are free, with childcare available.