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As need grows, The Caring Place keeps focus sheltering, assisting domestic violence victims
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As need grows, The Caring Place keeps focus sheltering, assisting domestic violence victims

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The murder of Amanda Bach by her former boyfriend in 2011 sent shock waves throughout Northwest Indiana. Bach was 18 and the victim of dating violence.

That is not unusual, says Denise C. Koebcke, new president and CEO of The Caring Place, a nonprofit social service organization in Valparaiso with the goal of meeting the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault victims be they men, women or children.

“According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an estimated 1 in 3 high school relationships involve some sort of physical, emotional or sexual abuse,” says Koebcke, noting that 80% of parents don’t realize the prevalence of teen dating violence.

That’s one of the reasons Koebcke created the Amanda Forum for The Caring Place, a countywide youth dating violence initiative, in 2013. She also designed, trained and coordinated the forum as well as helped in securing grants to finance its goals of educating parents and teens about dating violence and “raise awareness of negative social norms in relationships and provide the kids with pro-social skills.”

“Right before the pandemic hit, I was honored to take a team of my Amanda Forum Youth Task Force to present at the International Bullying Prevention Association World Conference in Chicago,” she says, a rare opportunity. 

Before joining The Caring Place, Koebcke worked in Valparaiso pubic schools for almost three decades, teaching and serving as  the K-12 Student Leadership/Climate Coordinator and  director/consultant for Team LEAD LLC. Both organizations focus on developing positive social behaviors, leadership skills and effective communication as well as changing the environment to help eliminate peer aggression through training, activities and monitoring.

These experiences prepared her well to head The Caring Place, which opened in the mid-1970s, when a group of volunteers raised funds for a shelter for abused women and their children. It has served more than 35,000 domestic violence victims since, Koebcke estimates.

Besides offering the only 24-hour crisis line and emergency shelter in Porter County, The Caring Place serves all victims of abuse. 

“Indiana is above the national average in domestic violence and suicide,” says Koebcke, noting that domestic violence calls and deaths are on the rise.

The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that domestic-violence deaths has risen 181% during the pandemic.

“Anytime society is experiencing distress, discord or mental health challenges, our numbers rise,” continues Koebcke. “Many people think of domestic violence between a couple, but seniors are also at risk, including those living at home.”

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 10 people 60 and older living at home have experienced some form of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

That's where The Caring Place steps in.

In October it sheltered 42 people in their shelter and served 42 community clients. It also answered 142 crisis calls. 

A new shelter built in 2019 has separate wings to allow for men to use the residential services of The Caring Place. Before that, the shelter put them up in hotels.

The average stay of clients is 30-45 days, during which they receive training, advocacy, legal assistance, education and sexual assault support, services that are also available for community members.

The shelter's 24-hour crisis lines are 219-464-2128 and 1-800-933-0466. For more information, visit www.thecaringplacenwi.org.

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