October focuses on domestic violence awareness

-A A +A
By Calen McKinney

They see it every week. It usually starts as a heated argument and then escalates to physical violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, something local police and sheriff’s deputies investigate every week of the year. Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton says domestic violence involves physical injury between family members. The situations typically begin with an argument, which Newton said doesn’t create cause for an arrest.

“You can verbally argue all you want,” he said. “There’s no law against that yet.”

But once the situation becomes physical, domestic violence laws require an arrest. He said officers have up to four hours to arrest and charge a person with domestic violence and can use their discretion in the situations.

Out of every three or four domestic complaints his deputies investigate, Newton said, there is one arrest.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette says domestic violence laws don’t extend to those who are dating. And he says domestic violence situations typically occur when one or both people are intoxicated, which leads to arguing.

Andrea Underwood is Taylor County’s victims’ advocate. Her job entails helping the victims of crimes, from filing for emergency protective orders and criminal charges, referring victims to services they need and much more.

“I care for victims that have been involved with crimes,” she said.

Underwood explains the court process with victims and will attend court hearings with them.

“ ... In front of their actual perpetrator,” she said. “Because a lot of times they are scared.”

Underwood said the majority of domestic violence situations in Taylor County occur between husbands and wives or girlfriends and boyfriends, with the male being the aggressor. However, she says, in about two of every 10 cases she helps with, the male is the victim. She said she has also helped victims of same-sex relationships, more commonly involving two women.

Perhaps the most difficult cases to deal with, however, are the ones in which children are involved. She said some teenagers have told her they don’t want to be with their parents because they are scared of them.

Underwood said she works with a domestic violence victim about three of the five days of every week.

Sheriff’s deputies are called to the scene of domestic disputes multiple times each week, Newton said.

And Hazlette said his officers, on average, respond to one situation every day. On average, the department investigates 300 or more complaints each year.

In 2011, the department investigated 311. So far for 2012, there have been 258. In 2011, Taylor County Sheriff’s deputies opened 28 criminal domestic violence cases and investigated 107 complaints. This year, deputies have opened 13 cases and investigated 57 complaints.

If a person feels they are in a relationship in which arguing could escalate to physical violence, Newton says they could get an EPO. But the best solution, he said, is to simply take time apart to cool off and think about the situation.

“You pretty much try to separate people and get them apart,” he said.

Newton said domestic violence incidents seem to rise around holiday seasons. Those times of year, he said, people can be emotional and stressed.

Physical violence can also happen any time financial strain is involved, he said, whether the stress be because of the holiday season or at any other time of the year. Winter months can also stir domestic violence situations.

“They get a lot of cabin fever and they get on each other’s nerves,” he said.

Hazlette said domestic violence situations also rise during the summer months.

“People are more agitated when it’s hot,” he said.

Hazlette said disagreements can also result from opinions as to how to punish children. He said paydays are also a time when tempers can flare.

“[They get a] check and the other spends on something the other disapproves of,” he said. “One party needs to just leave until cooler heads prevail.”

Underwood said she, too, has seen domestic violence cases increase around the holiday seasons. “It depends on the moon, to be honest with you,” she said.

Hazlette said sometimes people wait until the third or fourth violent situation before reporting it.

“If they fear for their safety, they really need to call us,” he said. “And give us the opportunity to intervene.”

Underwood agrees.

“Call 911 or just get out of the house.”

When investigating domestic violence situations, Newton and Hazlette say their officers refer victims to local shelters, counseling services and social services workers. He said couples counseling is strongly recommended.

Newton says people should try to calm their emotions in a heated argument and make a decision to not let the situation escalate.

“Don’t try to stay and win the argument,” he said. “Keep away. That’s when it escalates into a domestic.

“Go somewhere else. Get a cup of coffee. Get some fresh air. Cool down.”

Newton said the best advice he can give for those fearful that an argument will turn physical is simply to leave.

“If they can leave, that’ll take care of it.”

Underwood said she recommends victims to several local counselors and shelters. She said officials from the

Bethany House shelter in Lebanon come to Campbellsville every Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Taylor County Extension Office to speak with victims. Hazlette says sometimes people are just in unhealthy relationships.

“There’s a lot of people in relationships that ought not to be,” he said.

A victims’ advocate since January, Underwood says she enjoys helping victims get help and leave dangerous situations.

“It’s rewarding to be able to help the women or men that feel they need protection,” she said. “And children.”

For more information call Underwood at 465-5406.