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Debra Cheshier, crime victim advocate with the office of the Audrain County prosecuting attorney, said the problem of domestic violence doesn’t respect boundaries of any one particular group — it stretches the gamut.
And with the number of domestic violence cases nearly doubling in Audrain County since 2010, Cheshier said she feels more of a demand for her office since she started the new position in March.
Audrain County Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger’s office handled 56 domestic violence cases in 2010. The number of cases increased to 83 in 2011 before jumping again to 104 cases in 2012.
Yet, there is new hope. With the new victim advocate position, she said the office is able to handle the issue with a more case-by-case focus, and the process starts with education.
Ashley Turner, Audrain County assistant prosecuting attorney, said some abuse victims are timid about seeking justice as a result of the abuser’s power and control — even victim fears that their partner will just be sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
“I don’t know how common it is but it happens,” Cheshier said. “There is often a lot of fear for the victims.”
However, Turner said the key to helping those victims secure justice and freedom from abuse is educating them of the dynamics and community resources available in Audrain County.
“Now we have a position dedicated to domestic violence,” Turner said, referring to Cheshier’s position.
Aside from her position, Cheshier said the prosecutor’s office leans heavily on Audrain County Crisis Intervention Services (ACCIS).
“They’re a great community resource,” Cheshier said. “We rely on them a lot.”
ACCIS provides shelter for victims, a 24-hour hot line, counseling, and case management assistance for victims.
“There is a lot communities that for some reason aren’t able to have a shelter,” she said. “Mexico is really lucky.”
She added the case management aspect of ACCIS is especially important for victims, as the service helps the abused file much needed ex-parte orders and can even accommodate them to court.
“Ex-parte orders can certainly be and important tool for victims,” Cheshier said, noting the need to remove the abuser.
ACCIS can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-246-2280. ACCIS resources can be accessed from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 573-581-3835.
But support isn’t just available for the victims, important resources also exist for the abuser.
That support comes in the form of Evergreen Behavioral Services’, LLC, Batterers Intervention Program (BIP).
Turner said BIP, which is often a component of probation, is a 26-week program beginning with an assessment to determine the appropriate avenue for treatment, be it substance abuse or anger management.
After getting to the heart of the issue, the program offers one-on-one counseling or group counseling.
Evergreen Behavioral Services can be reached at 573-582-0292.
Read the full article in the The Vandalia Leader’s January 30 print edition.