Danyette Smith was named the city’s director of domestic violence programming for the Office of Public Health and Safety earlier this year. In this role, she’ll work to get domestic violence survivors connected with agencies that provide shelter and other services.
This isn’t a huge shift for Smith. She founded the nonprofit Silent No More in 2014 after leaving an abusive relationship. Through her organization, Smith has already been doing the work she’ll do for the city.
The new position comes at a time when rates of domestic violence in Indiana are soaring. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the rate of domestic violence-related homicides in the state has increased 100% according to data from the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This is, in part, due to victims being isolated with their abuser during shelter-in-place mandates and because many shelters and service providers had to stop taking new clients.
Black women are disproportionally affected by violence nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women in America experience the highest rate of homicide — 4.4 per 100,000 women. Roughly 55% of these homicides stemmed from domestic violence.
While Smith doesn’t know if the end of the pandemic will lead to a decrease in domestic violence cases, she’s confident that her experience in domestic violence advocacy will help more women feel comfortable in coming forward.
“I think it will help to a large extent because the community trusts me,” Smith said. “They know I have the community’s best interest at heart. It’s beyond a job. It’s trying to help the city of Indianapolis and … getting the survivors and victims what they need based on the relationships we build.”
Smith became involved in domestic violence advocacy work just months after leaving an abusive partner, in part because she found it was difficult to find the resources needed after leaving a violent situation. Often, she said, domestic violence gets “swept under the rug,” and it isn’t always clear what assistance is available to survivors.
In her new role with the city, she’ll work with members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to streamline domestic violence assistance. She and her team — which consists of three advocates — will patrol communities and work directly with victims and survivors of domestic violence to help find resources. The goal is to create partnerships between domestic violence agencies to decrease the number of agencies someone must go to for assistance, whether that’s employment, housing assistance or other necessities.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.