MERRILLVILLE | Community leaders say domestic violence thus far shows no sign of abating, but they continue to believe the problem is preventable with the right community response.
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month kicks off this week, eight leaders from Lake and Porter counties gathered Wednesday at Merrillville's The Patio Restaurant to raise public awareness regarding the issue.
Over the years, law enforcement has increased the training of first responders and recognized services are sometimes more effective than jail time, said those in the gathering.
But the top priority is dealing with the impact of domestic violence on children for whom the trauma can be lifelong and lead to similar behavior, the group agreed.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter urged victims not to ignore a first incident. He said one incident often leads to another for as long as five to 10 years before intervention.
"He or she cannot buy into it's only going to happen one time," Carter said.
Victims should take immediate action, he said.
Carter said domestic violence victims carry with them a special psychology for which he trains his deputies.
Family issues and economic concerns play a special role with victims of domestic violence, he said.
Deputies are trained to work with victims who may recant their accusations, but Carter said his office tries to hold to the policy of not dropping such charges as much as possible.
Strides are being made to provide services beneficial to both batterers and victims, said Jane Bisbee, deputy director of field services with the Indiana Department of Child Services.
"We can't incarcerate every batterer," Bisbee said.
The public should be aware domestic violence is reportable to DCS, and parents should understand they are responsible for any domestic abuse witnessed or experienced by their children, she said.
For example, teenage girls should be urged never to allow coercion by a boyfriend, Bisbee said.
"It is a parent's job to protect her," she said.