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Editorial: Maybe there's a reason she doesn't just leave

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
September 15, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Why doesn’t she just leave?

Maybe she’s a teenager still in school who believes her dreams of higher education and a better life will be markedly more difficult to achieve if she leaves the family headed by her abusive father.

Maybe she’s a mother who doesn’t believe she will be able to provide for her children if she leaves the husband who beats her. Maybe she fears him beating the children, too, should he find her after she leaves.

Perhaps the she in this scenario is a he. Can you imagine – in a society where many men believe they must adhere to a Clint Eastwood-esque archetype of masculinity – a man admitting that his wife beats him?

If you’ve ever asked that question – why doesn’t she just leave? – we implore you to ask that of the people who run the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. ICADV celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala Sept. 11. The statewide network was formed when the first five domestic violence shelters decided to join forces. Those first five were: Turning Point in Columbus, 1975; the YWCA of Fort Wayne, 1976; YWCA of St. Joseph County, 1977; Women’s Alternatives in Anderson, 1978; and The Caring Place in Valparaiso, 1978.

Today the network contains about 40 domestic violence organizations across the state, some with more than one location.

The organization reports an increase in the numbers of victims seeking assistance now than it did in the first few years of its existence. That increase is not due to an uptick in the number of victims, but an increase in awareness of the resources available to people who do manage to summon the courage to leave their abusive situations.

The organizations now do more than make their communities aware of the problem, and offer more than a hotline to call and a safe haven for victims. Now shelters provide job training, financial education, and protective order help for victims who need it.

ICADV works with the Indiana General Assembly on public policy issues, and has helped update statutes so that police and prosecutors have more tools to use when making a case against an abuser. The network also offers training for police, prosecutors, and judges.

They also helped broaden a program started in Lapel by the police chief there and Alternatives Inc., what had been Women’s Alternatives when it started in 1978. Employees of Ricker Oil, a gas company based in Madison County, were trained starting in 2002 to work with domestic violence victims who may come to their stores needing assistance. The president of Gas America, which is based in Hancock County, learned about the program and asked Alternatives about it, who then asked ICADV for help in implementing it in that chain of stores. Programs like these are critical in providing resources to people in rural communities who may not have a home phone or are afraid to use it to call for help. Liability insurance increased for both gas station chains once this program was implemented in their stores, but the owners remain committed to the program anyway.

So if you dare to ask that question – why doesn’t she just leave? – of the ICADV, we will caution you to be prepared for the answer. Sometimes she does leave and her worst fear comes true and she dies at the hands of her abuser.

The violence doesn’t always end when the relationship does.•

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  2. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  3. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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