Sheriff’s department averages 3 domestic violence calls per day
[Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in a multipart series about domestic violence. The following story may contain graphic details that some readers may find disturbing.]
Often, victims of domestic violence are afraid to ask for support and that allows perpetrators to continue the abuse.
There is help, however. Officers with local law enforcement agencies are trained to respond to domestic violence calls in a way that ensures the victims’ safety.
The Coffee County Sheriff’s Department works closely with the district attorney’s office and Haven of Hope to protect victims and to offer necessary tools and information to survivors.
Sgt. Daniel Ray is one of the local law enforcement officers trained to battle domestic violence.
In a period of one year, officers with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department respond to more than 1,000 domestic violence calls. This number reflects only the calls made to the sheriff’s department and does not include calls for help received by the police departments in Manchester and Tullahoma.
“According to our records, the sheriff’s department alone responds to approximately three domestic violence calls a day,” Ray said.
These situations range from verbal disagreements to violent domestic cases, said Ray.
“The sheriff’s department takes this issue very seriously,” Ray said.
The officers’ goal is to ensure the safety and protection of the county’s residents, added Ray.
The issue can’t be tackled single-handedly, however. That’s why the department works closely with local agencies working to reduce the occurrences of abuse in Coffee County. Those organizations share knowledge and train together.
“The district attorney’s office and Haven of Hope trained the deputies at our yearly in-service training on recognizing signs of domestic violence,” Ray said.
Haven of Hope offers assistance to victims of abuse. The organization provides crisis counseling, emergency shelter, court advocacy and group training to survivors.
The district attorney’s office assists victims not only by prosecuting abusers but also by providing resources and information to the survivors.
Responding to calls
The 911 communication center is also an important piece of the coordinated efforts to tackle abuse. When victims or witnesses suspecting abuse call 911, they activate response actions.
“It all starts with a call in to the communication center,” Ray said. “The dispatchers at the communication center are very good at gaining useful and possibly life-saving information.”
Talking to the callers, dispatchers learn if the perpetrators have access to weapons and if children are involved. When there are weapons on the scene, the deputies run their vehicles’ emergency lights and sirens so they can arrive and stop the abuse as soon as possible, said Ray.
“Once safely on the scene, the deputies begin to assess the situation from outside of the residence,” Ray said. “They are looking for anything disturbed outside, such as windows busted, items thrown outside, or vehicles vandalized.”
Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous types of calls officers receive, according to Ray.
“As officers approach the residence, they are listening for any type of disturbance coming from inside,” Ray said.
Once they reach the location, deputies take several steps to ensure the safety of the victim.
“Once contact is made, the deputies will separate the parties and begin questioning,” Ray said. “It is the deputies’ job to determine the primary aggressor. If anyone has injuries, then an arrest shall be made.”
When an arrest is made, examination of the situation continues.
“This does not stop the investigation,” Ray said. “Pictures are taken of the residence, any wounds [are documented], and a detailed statement of events are taken from the victim.”
Sometimes, when both individuals have wounds or a primary aggressor cannot be determined, both parties are arrested and charged with domestic violence, said Ray. When it’s clear who the perpetrator is, he or she is detained.
Once the arrest is made and the aggressor taken to jail, deputies provide the victim with resources and information about agencies offering assistance, such as Haven of Hope.
“The assailant will be placed on a mandatory 12-hour hold and will also have to sign a bond condition stating that the assailant cannot have any type of contact with the victim,” Ray said.
To ensure all deputies have the required knowledge, the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department conducts domestic violence training every year. The classes and activities focus on enhancing the skills of officers to serve victims of domestic violence.
Know the signs
Awareness is essential for battling domestic violence.
Knowing the signs of domestic violence and recognizing batterers can prevent abuse. Awareness helps individuals provide more details in case they are called as witnesses in domestic violence cases.
Understanding and recognizing the red flags can help individuals from falling into the trap of dependency, which may lead to domestic violence.
Abusers often display common characteristics, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Abusers usually minimize the seriousness of the violence and its effects on the victim.
Abusers objectify their victims and often see them as their property or sexual objects.
Red flags include extreme jealousy, possessiveness, unpredictability, a bad temper, cruelty to animals and verbal abuse.
Warning signs also include extremely controlling behavior and antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.
Abusers often blame the victim for anything bad that happens.
They sabotage or obstruct the victim’s ability to work or attend school and control their finances. They also sabotage of birth control methods or refusal to honor agreed upon methods.
They abuse other family members, children or pets.
Perpetrators often accuse the victim of flirting with others or having an affair, and they want to control what the victim wears.
Batterers demean the victim not only privately but publicly too. They often embarrass or humiliate the victim in front of others and harass the victim at work.
By learning the warning signs, community members can not only protect themselves, but others as well.
“The community can help by being a good witness,” Ray said. “If someone sees a domestic violence incident occurring, then that person needs to speak out by calling 911. Maybe the domestic can be stopped before it turns violent.”
Elena Cawley can be reached by email at email@example.com.