Eighty-nine percent of women seeking to escape abusive relationships in Carroll County have their children with their partners, and nearly 50 calls per year reporting domestic violence come from men alerting officials of their partner abusing them and their children.
Police also receive some calls from roommates in student housing who get into physical altercations, which can be considered another form of domestic violence.
Since 1981, October has been recognized as National Domestic Violence Month. Many opt to wear their purple ribbons or clothing during the National Week of Action through this Saturday, and reflect on those who have been affected by the social scourge, which has led to fatal consequences. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Georgia ranks ninth in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men, up from the 12th spot in 2014. Georgia is No. 3 for total domestic violence cases.
Sasha Smith and Martha Boyce deal with domestic violence every day.
Smith, who is the Carrollton Police Department’s domestic violence detective, averages 40 domestic violence incident reports per month, and gets more that are not assigned. She said she’s encountered situations that include bodily and property damage and things that go well beyond a red mark, laceration or black eye.
“Men calling to report is not as common but sometimes, you have both the man and woman involved in the domestic dispute calling,” she said. “By far, the majority of the cases would be mostly women or someone calling for the woman. Sometimes we have both the man and woman arrested. It doesn’t have to be a couple. Sometimes you have incidents between roommates. We get several reports from the college apartment complexes of roommates not getting along. Then of course you have the cases that involve children, and we try to keep the women and children together. When there are children who witness it or who are physically hurt, of course, we normally refer those to the Department of Family and Children Services. They don’t have to be physically hurt, we just want to make sure they are OK.”
Smith advises those who witness domestic violence to call 911 as the incident is happening. She said that it is also important for someone looking to escape domestic violence to know that there are resources in the community available to them and ways in which they can obtain temporary protective orders.
When officers arrive on the scene, an incident report is started, said Smith. She then is responsible for doing the paperwork and contacting the victim as well as doing follow-up procedures and interviews.
Having worked in court, on patrol and now in domestic violence, the latter for 12 years, Smith said the frustration can come from those who end up in cycles that do not result in good endings. Yet, she says, she knows it’s her purpose to continue doing what she does.
“It’s not easy to just up and walk away,” she said. “It’s really hard to get out of the cycle for some, and they keep going back. In fact, it’s very common to have repeaters.
“Why do I continue to do it? I think that I am doing it for a bigger purpose and the good Lord keeps me going so I’ve got to do it. I’ve worked so long in this; I understand that it’s not always easy. Some people, that kind of life is all they ever know, and then other people have a support system. Sometimes, it can be just really hard and that is where the shelter comes in.”
The Carroll County Emergency Shelter covers several counties in west Georgia, but director Martha Boyce says the vast majority come from Carrollton. Over the years, she has seen an increase of people seeking their services. She’s been at the helm of the service for 29 years.
“When they come in, we do a crisis assessment and a danger assessment,” said Boyce. “We do not go to the scene. That is law enforcement. If she needs law enforcement, we call them. If she’s on the way then we advise her to go directly there and ensure whether or not her perpetrator is following her.”
Once the victim comes through the shelter, crisis intervention takes place and the victim is allowed to speak and assured that she is in a safe place. If children are involved, Boyce said that a child advocate talks and plays with them, feeds them if they are hungry and assesses them to ensure they are OK. It is important, Boyce said, that the mother and children stay together.
“We want her to be stabilized and get her safe as quickly as we can,” she said. “We get her and her kids together and we provide her with things she needs physically. If they need clothes or school supplies and food we help. Also it’s real important to include legal advocacy as that is the one who prepares the temporary protective order and who will take her to court to keep the abuser away from her and give her a measure of safety. With the children, some have been through the abuse with their mother so they also deal with some kind of abuse too if only it is emotional abuse.”
Almost 1,000 women and children have come through the women’s shelter and transition house. Others rely on the Emergency Shelter for support groups, financial management, parenting classes and transitioning to moving on with their lives.
“As far as having men reach out to us, we would serve them like we would serve the woman but we We would place them at a different location than the Emergency Shelter,” said Boyce. “I admire the men who have called in to say they want a [temporary restraining order] against their partner. We do offer men group and counseling. Another thing with men, about 27 of the calls we have comes from a man who is in a same-sex relationship and he is reporting being abused by his partner.”
Boyce said that while October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there are continuing efforts to educate the public. She said it is important for victims to see that their community does have resources for them or for people they know who might need it.
“We honor the women who have the courage to walk away,” said Boyce. “l think with all the publicity on it, domestic violence is still the best-kept secret in families. I think awareness grows because you have more people talking and reporting it. Some of the women also don’t repeat the cycle as much as they used to but if they want to come to us again for another domestic issue, we will not turn them away because we served them before. The stats say a woman leaves seven times before she finally walks for good. We are going to serve her again if she needs it. Any or all of our services are free and confidential so victims won’t worry about someone saying something. We are there to support and to help people walk away from domestic violence.”
The Carroll County Emergency Shelter for domestic violence has a 24-hour crisis hotline that can be reached at 770-834-1141. Temporary protective orders and additional support can be obtained from the administrative office at 770-834-9178.