Domestic violence - the hits keep coming

Wanda English Burnett

While strides have been made through education, public awareness, law enforcement, and prosecution, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to curbing the vicious cycle of domestic violence.

Fifty-one people died in a one year period in the State of Indiana as a result of domestic violence, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV).

Dr. T. Neil Moore, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute noted that “the decision to batter is often a matter of control and a calculated choice.” He said variables such as stress, mental illness and substance abuse may exasperate situations, but are not the cause.

On September 23 in Ripley County Circuit Court, Johnny R. Sandlin, 29, of Cross Plains, pled guilty to Domestic Battery with a prior conviction. He was given the maximum sentence of three years with none suspended.

Sandlin was facing other felony charges as well, which were pled in an agreement that he would plead guilty and not have a jury trial. Prosecutor Ric Hertel noted that the case was a “tricky” one, since the victim was not cooperative. This is often the case in domestic abuse situations. If it is a husband and wife, or a couple in a relationship, they are reluctant to testify against the person they still love, even though they’ve been abused.

In this particular incidence, police had responded to a residence in Cross Plains on January 19 of this year. Upon arriving they could hear a female screaming for help according to information from court documents. A 911 call had been made earlier from that residence alerting police.

Police could clearly see blood on the victim’s mouth, lips, and hands. She told police she was asleep on the couch when she was awakened by Sandlin, who accused her of sleeping around with other men. She said he “drug her off of the couch to the floor, up against the book case, where he began choking her around the neck, and covering her mouth with his hands, telling her to shut up.” At the time the victim was about eight months pregnant with Sandlin’s child. The couple also have two other children that had been taken by the Department of Child Services, from a previous domestic situation, according to court records.

A sad note to the situation was that the victim was given the victims’ right form, and offered medical attention or a safe house, but she refused. She said she didn’t have the money and couldn’t afford to do anything until her baby was born.

The story is a real one and not one that is all that uncommon. That’s why people working with agencies such as Safe Passage (a domestic violence shelter serving Ripley and surrounding counties) are doing everything they can to remain in tact as the economy tears at the financial support, which typically comes from grant money. They are asking businesses, organizations, individuals and local government agencies for assistance as they serve a five county area with this much needed shelter.

On Saturday, November 7 there are a couple of fundraisers that will support Safe Passage. First the sixth annual No Excuse for Abuse 5K Walk/Run will take place at 8:30 a.m. at the Batesville Police Department. It is sponsored by the Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office. Then at 11 a.m. that same day, “A Cup of Kindness” ladies luncheon at the Sherman House will be held with proceeds again going to the local shelter.

The keynote speaker for the luncheon used to travel the comedy circuit and is also a Prevent Child Abuse Indiana worker from the Indianapolis area.

Domestic abuse has no barriers. It crosses every line and extends from one generation to another. “Many Hoosiers continue to suffer first-hand, the devastating and far-reaching impacts of this incessant cycle that only courage can break,” noted Moore.

Another sad fact is that reports with how many people are abused each year does not reflect the true number. “Most domestic violence is not reported,” Prosecutor Hertel noted. Moore agreed, saying, “The reported figures reflect but a fraction of the real picture.” He says the reluctance to report abuse to authorities stems from fear of retaliation, stigmatism, or shame.

Moore says in order to reverse this trend of silence, we must remain vigilant in our efforts across the state to educate the public by raising the profile of domestic abuse and holding perpetrators accountable. He says this type of violence cannot be ignored.

“Domestic violence affects all sectors of our society, but education, awareness and diligence are what can bring about change.” Moore calls all service providers together to bring about the change needed for victims to feel safe and secure. He noted that the public and private sectors need to bring into the forefront the fact that domestic violence affects everyone. “By working together we can be the voice for victims and offer help to heal and create a positive environment for families, communities, and our state.”

Moore called on everyone to work together saying “The acts of domestic violence belong to us all. It is not simply a legal problem, a health issue or a law enforcement dilemma. If we are to achieve real progress we must work together on local, state and the national levels to make effective changes.
October is set aside as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The prosecutor agreed with Moore’s statement about domestic violence not being just a law enforcement or criminal justice problem. He said, “No city or town is immune to it.” He believes by combining efforts, the cycle of abuse can be broken. He invites you to take part in the No Excuse for Abuse Walk. For additional information you can contact his office at 812-689-6331.
To find out more about the fundraising luncheon at the Sherman House, which also benefits Safe Passage, contact 812-933-1990.

If you need help and are faced with a domestic violence issue you can call the above number or the 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-877-733-1990. The daytime toll-free hotline number is 1-866-933-1990.
Safe Passage is a completely confidential organization that offers help to anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, whether it be women, children, or the elderly.