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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Why domestic violence organizations are seeing a rise in calls for help

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Every year, the Domestic Violence Network hosts a ceremony for survivors of domestic violence and to honor victims in Central Indiana. The service, inside the chapel at Meridian Street United Methodist Church, concludes with a candlelight ceremony and a reading of every victim’s name and age.

In the 31 years the organization has hosted the ceremony, there have never been as many names as this year.

There were 37 victims of domestic violence in the region from June 2020 to May 2021. Two victims were 7 years old; some could only be called “unidentified male” or “unidentified female.”

“Honestly, I hate this day a lot,” Domestic Violence Network Executive Director Kelly McBride said after the ceremony Oct. 5. “Reading those names and the ages, it’s just devastating. There are children in there. There are people just starting their lives.”

Last year, there were 11 names, but the most recent ceremony captured the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warned the pandemic — especially in the early months — would likely lead to an increase in domestic violence, and the numbers are starting to show how serious it’s been.

Coburn Place served almost 50% more survivors in 2020 than it did in 2019, and the organization already passed that number for this year in June, according to Julie Henson, vice president of development.

‘Rising from the ashes’
Local author Cassandra Anderson will read passages from her book and hold a book signing at 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Eagle Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library, 3905 N. Moller Road, for her book “Rising from the Ashes: A Journey from Trauma to Healing.”
Anderson lived through years of trauma as a child and endured sexual abuse. In her book, Anderson shares her life story and offers uplifting messages for anyone who may be experiencing or has experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse.

Calls for help to the Julian Center have increased over the last six months, according to Brittany McCollom, deputy director of survivor services. The organization’s service numbers have also increased compared to the same time last year.

Schnurpel said people usually take advantage of times during the day when they aren’t around their abuser, whether that’s during a lunch break or taking the kids to school. Those breaks didn’t exist for many people in the early months of the pandemic, but now they’ve come back.

It’s also likely some people didn’t know if service providers were open because of how many places had to close temporarily.

The Julian Center adapted by making virtual options easier to access. The center can now document verbal consent, for example, which is something it wasn’t able to do before the pandemic made it necessary.

“It seems like that would’ve been something we were doing all along,” Schnurpel said, “but as a community I don’t think we were ever faced with the position that we were in, where everything we did had to be electronic.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or by email at tylerf@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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