The Newton Police Department has responded to more than 400 domestic assaults so far in 2017 and the frequency is described as a “real issue” throughout Jasper County by an outreach advocate.
Those seeking help in domestic violence situations are turning to advocates with the Crisis Center & Women’s Shelter, which operates an office inside the United Way of Jasper County building, 312 First Ave. W. Shelley Koons, an outreach advocate, serves Jasper County as part of the nonprofit that serves 12 counties.
“Jasper County has a real issue with domestic violence and it’s just as important for women and men to know we are here in town and we are willing to do whatever we need to do to help them,” Koons said. “A lot of the women suffer from PTSD so I do recommend them therapy most of the time.”
Koons said along with counseling they help with restraining orders and transitional housing.
“A lot of women when the restraining order is granted, they do have to leave their home,” Koons said. “Usually they haven’t been allowed to work or anything like that, and we do have transitional housing here that we put women in for 30 to 60 days until they can find a job and have a little bit of steady income and start to get back on their feet again.”
Koons said she helps victims find apartments, food assistance, hygiene items and attends trials with the victims of domestic violence solely to show her support, among other services. Out of all the services, Koons believes housing in the county is the biggest drawback for people in those situations.
“There just isn’t enough (housing) for someone trying to get back on their feet again,” Koons said. “And of course with all the state budget cuts it’s been hard.”
So far in 2017, Koons said she has worked with close to 100 women who range in ages from 24 to 50 years old.
According to Jennifer Swim, an outreach advocate, more than 60 percent of domestic violence incidents go unreported.
“Domestic violence is all about control, intimidation and coercion it takes on all different forms,” Swim said. “It’s not always just black eyes and bruises.”
According to dispatch records, 419 calls were tagged as domestic assaults in 2017 to date, Newton Police Department Sgt. Chris Wing said.
“We get a ton of calls that are classified as domestic calls, but they don’t all end up being violent — of those 419 there were 36 calls that we took reports on and 28 individuals were charged,” Wing said.
When officers respond to domestic calls the primary concern are the victim’s safety along with the officer’s safety, Wing said.
“The classic response is two officers respond and then they divide up and talk to the parties,” Wing said. “Officers will compare notes and figure out what really happened and their goal is to figure out who was the primary aggressor.”
Wing said state law requires officers to arrest the aggressor and it’s not in the hands of the victim to make the decision to press charges.
“Victims are reluctant to stand up for themselves … the state is pursuing that charge and we can tell the suspect it’s not your girlfriend or wife who is charging you, we are,” Wing said. “In some cases both parties will be arrested but that’s not very often.”
Following the arrest of an aggressor, Wing said a restraining order is automatically put into place between the aggressor and the victim. Victims also receive a pamphlet with local resources and phone numbers.
“It’s important they (the victim) seek help to show the person who is their abuser that they aren’t going to tolerate this, otherwise it’ll be a perpetual cycle,” Wing said. “It’s important they also receive counseling to get their self-esteem back up and that they don’t put themselves in that situation again.”
Wing said he has personally responded to a lot of domestic abuse situations and they are all very different. He said he believes domestic violence is a statewide problem.
“It’s interesting the term of a domestic abuse — people think it’s just a husband and wife but it can be separated spouses and children where a son assaults the father,” Wing said. “A small percentage of those actually get to the report level.”
For Koons, helping those victims recover is where her passion lies.
“Meeting the women is my favorite part — there are some wonderful, wonderful women who have been put in a terrible situation,” Koons said. “This job is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
The crisis center can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-464-8340. That hotline puts callers in touch with Koons.
Contact Kayla Singletary at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org