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Victims program has new home

September 23, 2009
Down the Street and Around the Corner — Victims Advocacy has moved to a new location.

The victim advocacy program in Crawford County, which works to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, now has a new home at the Patoka Family Health Care Clinic in English.

The program, formerly located in the building that houses the county probation office, was able to secure a larger office at the clinic, which is located at 307 S. Indiana Ave., and offers easy access.

For years, the victim advocacy program, administered by Hoosier Hills PACT, has been helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault find safety, security and a new start.

"We get referrals from law enforcement, schools and other agencies," Jon Kuss, director of Hoosier Hills PACT, said. "We're also notified when someone files for a protective order at the clerk's office. We do a danger assessment, to determine the level of danger the victim is facing. This is based on a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence scale.

"We develop a safety plan that can include shelter, or a contact she can call if needed, and even food, clothing and utilities if needed. We don't want the victim feeling that she has to go back to an abusive partner. We want her to know that she can hang on."

Many victims, if they try to get away from the abuse, will find themselves suddenly without a place to go, without a home or a roof over their children's heads.

"It takes a lot of courage to leave an abusive relationship," Kuss said. "And the most dangerous time is when she is trying to leave. The guy has suddenly lost control. We make sure these women have a safe place to go and take their children. We have a shelter they can go to, and we don't reveal the location. We furnish her with a cell phone so she can call 911, if necessary.

"We can help them get another place to live or furnish her with gas money to get where she needs to go. We have Goodwill vouchers she can use to get clothes and other items, and we do a lot of food vouchers. This is the kind of planning our staff helps with — to keep a victim safe," he continued.

"And we never close a case. These women can come back as needed. On average, a woman who has been abused will leave the abuser eight times before finally leaving for good. They love the guy. But, usually, when it begins to affect the children, they will leave."

PACT advocates, like Lisa McSpadden, who works in the Crawford County office, can develop a family support plan and help a victim work toward certain goals.

"We don't make decisions for them," Kuss said, "but we offer advice and help. No contact orders are just that. It means the abuser can have absolutely no contact with the victim — no mail, phone, his mother can't call — nothing. If there's children involved and the father wants visitation, PACT can work to set it up. We often arrange those. We've worked with some women for years.."

In Crawford County, there were 68 protective orders taken out in 2008. There have been 33 so far this year. In 2008, there were 15 cases of sexual abuse/assault in the county. There were 60 cases of domestic violence in Crawford County last year, and 42 so far in 2009.

"When someone asks me what I do, I tell them I work with people who have been hurt by someone they love," McSpadden said. "But I also work with victims of all crimes, anyone the prosecutor refers to me. If someone steals your wallet, and the prosecutor refers your case to me, you'll get a letter from me, and I'll follow up because you're a victim. But my main focus is on victims of domestic violence. I work with those people one-on-one."

Hoosier Hills PACT has victim advocates like McSpadden in all six counties it serves. Some of the offices work a little differently due to the difference in what each prosecutor wants, but the goal is the same: to help victims of domestic violence reclaim their lives.

"I like the work I do," McSpadden said. "I enjoy helping people."

Crawford County residents can reach McSpadden at 338-2969. If she is out of her office, she can be reached on her cell phone at 1-812-844-1732.

In an emergency, if McSpadden can't be reached, call toll-free 1-888-833-1959. This number is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In Harrison County, call Lindy Coleman at 738-1262.

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