Post & Mail photo / Christie Barkley
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To commemorate the month and to kick off the Whitley County Domestic Violence Task Forceâ€™s efforts, Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel made a proclamation to a group gathered at the courthouse in support of the task force.
COLUMBIA CITY â€“ October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Whitley County Domestic Violence Task Force joined with Columbia City High School students and Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel to â€śpaint the town purple.â€ť
The Whitley County Courthouse was decorated with purple ribbons and a banner in support of the national campaign to create a greater awareness for those affected by domestic violence. Mayor Daniel read a proclamation that offered the cityâ€™s support in a county-wide initiative to raise awareness about domestic violence and promote the services available to victims.
Sherry Sausaman founded the Whitley County Domestic Violence Task Force in the fall of 2009. Now as the vice president for the task force, Sausaman said, â€śThere were no resources before. Victims had to go to Fort Wayne or call an 800 number which wasnâ€™t a very immediate answer to the need. We needed something here, something closer to home.â€ť
That was Sausamanâ€™s motivation for launching the task force. She said having resources within the county allows for victims to remove themselves from a dangerous situation, but still be in an area where they are more likely to have support from family or friends.
Working together with local law enforcement, Sausaman said the task force is becoming more of an advocate for those hurt in domestic violence. Information cards are made available to women who might need the resources the task force can provide. A hotline number is listed on the card for those needing to get out of a domestic violent situation to call. Help is waiting on the other end of the line, said Sausaman.
â€śThe police department has that number and they know to give it out when they come upon a potential domestic violence situation,â€ť said Sausaman. â€śThe police encourage that person to call. They are also becoming more educated on how to spot such situations and how to better handle them.â€ť
As task force members and area residents gathered on the courthouse lawn to promote National Domestic Awareness Month, Chip Stevenson with the Columbia City Police Department was there and is an active member of the task force.
He said, â€śBeing a part of the task force is important because it shows men that there are other ways to respond other than violence.â€ť
Stevenson made mention of the gruesome deaths the county has seen in the past three years resulting from abusive situations. â€śI can think of three deaths right off hand that were pretty severe. And people think that kind of thing doesnâ€™t happen here in Whitley County,â€ťsaid Stevenson.
Although some may think domestic violence is not an issue in Whitley County, Stevenson said the affects of abuse has a greater impact because the county is smaller.
â€śWhen someone is a victim, it is more likely that they are related to someone in this county or people know that person. We are a small community and that makes the need for the task force that much greater,â€ť said Stevenson.
Pastor Tim Scroggs, of Eagle Quest Church is also on the task force. He said that as a pastor, he felt that reaching out to those whoâ€™ve been hurt is an extension of the churchâ€™s calling.
â€śIt is important to set an example, but to also show we care,â€ť said Scroggs. â€śBut what we want to do as a task force is to stop it before it starts.â€ť
That is just what Sausaman is on a mission to do.
â€śMy goal for 2013 is to work with law officials to revise some of the procedures that we currently have in regards to prosecuting abusers,â€ť said Sausaman.
Other events to promote National Domestic Violence Awareness Month are planned at Columbia City High School. The football field will be decorated in purple for the home game Friday and students will be encouraged to wear purple. Task force members will be on hand to pass out purple bracelets and to sell homemade purple sugar cookies. Later in October, the high schoolâ€™s sidewalks will double as canvases in a â€śchalk it up to awarenessâ€ť program. The sidewalk art will remind students of the importance of the month of October.
During the school day, classes will take time on Tuesdays to read an article pertaining to domestic violence and a daily domestic violence statistic will be read during the morning announcements.
Whitko High School will also join in on the â€śchalk it up to awarenessâ€ť campaign. The Wildcats will have announcements made regarding National Domestic Violence Awareness Month during halftime at football games. The school will also share facts during morning announcements while the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group will post non-violence messages throughout the high school hallways.
In a press release, Sausaman said, â€śWe have to become a community that has intolerance for domestic violence and collaborate to create a reputation that Whitley County will not tolerate the abuse of women or children.â€ť
For more information about the task force, to learn how to volunteer or to get help, contact Sausaman at 609-7086 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The task force can also be found on Facebook under Whitley County Domestic Violence Task Force.