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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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