Judges should learn about domestic violence


The NFL may have brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront in recent weeks, but it is has been a national problem for a long time. In Central Indiana, advocates have been working to address the problem for the last 14 years.

The Community Wide Plan to End Domestic Violence 3.0 is the third strategic plan created to tackle the issue in Marion and surrounding counties.

“The idea for a community plan dates back to the late 90s,” says Lisa Osterman with Community Solutions, one of the many partners involved in the plan’s development and implementation.

In 2000,Mayor Bart Peterson hosted a Roundtable to address the issue and the first community plan was born. “The first plan pulled ideas from various people and identified many approaches to addressing the problem,” says Osterman. The second plan, which was created from another Roundtable with Mayor Greg Ballard in 2008, continued with the same direction as the first plan for another three years. In 2012, preparations for a third plan began with the notion of reflecting the changes in the community’s needs and priorities.

“Good work had happened before, but [the previous two plans] weren’t designed to be results driven,” says Osterman. “The Community Wide Plan 3.0 is different in that it identifies a primary result – to end domestic violence in Central Indiana.”

The plan identifies four targeted populations in the community, results for each population group, and indicators to achieve those results. The population groups fall into one of two strategic categories: prevention and intervention. “Everyone in the community falls into one of the populations,” says Kelly McBride, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Network. “We know that one in three women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence and one in five people are affected by domestic violence. So, odds are if you aren’t a victim then you probably know someone who is.”

The Domestic Violence Network (DVN) is charged with implementing the plan. They work with shelters, care providers, law enforcement, and prosecutor’s office to get victims the help they need and hold abusers accountable for their actions. DVN is also in charge of collecting and analyzing the data acquired from reported domestic violence cases to determine what works, what doesn’t and make recommendations for plan improvements.

“Right now DVN is partnering with the Polis Center to take the collected data and begin mapping and analyzing it,” says Osterman. “Of course it won’t be perfect because the data is from reported cases only and there are so many unreported cases. But it will give an indication of possible predictors and indicators to help determine how best to deploy services.”

The information collected from reported cases of domestic violence provides a marginal sample of the problem in the community. Osterman says they are working with law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office on ways to better identify domestic violence situations. “A lot of cases in the criminal justice system are never listed as domestic violence cases when they should have been.”

Current data indicates 12,000 to 14,000 cases in Marion County alone have a man, woman, or child involved in domestic violence. Osterman and McBride believe that number is very low compared to the reality of unreported cases.

On the side of prevention, McBride says increasing public awareness is a key factor, especially in the workplace.

“DVN also trains administrators and staff on how to recognize domestic violence and how to respond if they become aware of domestic violence among employees,” says McBride. “74 percent of victims report being harassed by their abuser in the workplace. Employers should have a plan on how they support and protect their employees.”

Osterman and McBride agree that the recent incidents in the NFL have raised the awareness in the community and may have prompted victims to come forward. But, there is a lot of work left to do to break the cycle and reach the plan’s ultimate goal.

“Domestic Violence is a learned behavior. Abusers learn to abuse, victims learn to tolerate, and there is a lot of justification from all sides,” says McBride.

“The good news is that we are finally having the conversation now,” says Osterman. “It’s only been 20 years that domestic violence has been recognized as an issue in our society.”

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