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October has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed nationally in 1987. Domestic violence is a serious crime. It is no longer ignored or thought of as a "family matter" to be worked out at home. Domestic violence affects numerous families right here in Perry County.
Domestic violence is not a new problem. It is the leading cause of serious injury to women it is more common than rape, muggings and car crashes combined. It includes physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health found 55 percent of people ages 18-24 years old have suffered physical partner violence. The higher prevalence of partner violence among young adults calls for a critical intervention. Once a young person has gotten involved in an abusive relationship, it becomes very difficult to get out.
Some warning signs to watch for in order to stop it before it goes to far are:
• Extreme jealousy
• Controlling attitude
• Low self-esteem
• Unpredictable mood swings
• Alcohol and drug use
• Explosive anger
The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that almost half of all incidents of domestic violence against women are not reported. However, so far this year, Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, the office of the Perry County Prosecuting attorney assisted 30 victims of various types of domestic violence that involved criminal charges against the abuser.
Indiana has established new guidelines for filing protective orders. Civil court orders are now issued only in cases of domestic violence, sex offenses and stalking.
There is no longer a filing fee for these orders and steps have been taken to ensure greater confidentiality for victims.
We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Here are 10 ways to help a friend in need:
• Talk to them. The simplest solution to domestic violence is not being silent.
Acknowledge the difficult and dangerous situation.
• Listen to them.
• Encourage them.
• Help them develop a plan.
• Document the abuse.
• Support them.
• Respect their decision.
• Remember this may be a long process.
• Volunteer your time.
There are service providers in Perry County who work everyday to help ensure the safety of domestic violence victims. These service providers include all Perry County law-enforcement officers who respond to 911 emergency domestic calls; the Perry County prosecuting attorney, who files criminal cases against the batterers; victim advocates from the prosecutor's office and Crisis Connection, who provide victims with counseling, shelter, safety plans, emergency assistance and information about living outside the dangers of domestic violence and the countless volunteers, who answer the hotlines 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The prosecutor's office encourages you to seek assistance if you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic abuse. For 24-hour emergency assistance, call (800) 245-4580.
Editor's Note: This column was submitted by Kelli Wilgus, who is the victim advocate in the county prosecutor's office.