The battle against domestic violence is a complicated one, but Piatt County advocacy groups are focusing on some basics during October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“We hear from a lot of victims who didn’t get help because they thought they needed an attorney, and most of them have access to no funds,” said Rachel LeJeune, the director of Monticello-based Willow Tree Missions.
“If I had to shout one thing from the rooftops, it would on how to obtain an OP (order of protection),” she added, saying an attorney is not needed for an emergency order of protection.
The process for an emergency order can begin by visiting the Piatt County Courthouse in Monticello, or by calling LeJeune at 217-631-1018 or Piatt County DOVE Coordinator Liz Mackey at 217-762-2123 or 762-2122 (24-hour hotline). Advocates can walk them through the process, which includes a private room at the courthouse to fill out paperwork.
From law enforcement to the Piatt County Housing Authority, a coalition of about a dozen agencies have come together to pool resources in order to get help to domestic violence victims.
Don’t have transportation? PIATTRAN can get you to the courthouse. Are the police your first call? Officers are all trained on how to get an order of protection started. Other services range from the State’s Attorney Victims Advocate to A Small Hand Infant and Diaper Pantry.
“Our approach is we have the same end game, we all have different resources, we all have different strengths,” said LeJeune. “It’s just about using those strengths to attack domestic violence from every direction.”
Meanwhile, Mackey is offering a presentation on the subject to churches, civic groups and schools to teach what domestic violence is.
“It’s kind of amazing how people don’t know the basics of a healthy relationship, the basics of domestic violence as far as the power and control involved, the cycle of violence,” said Mackey. “So many people are unaware of the elements of domestic violence that we decided we’re going to get out and educate anybody who will listen to us.”
Her talks focus on the power and control wheel, which outlines how people use not just physical violence to control, but economic, emotional and other means.
As a matter of fact, LeJeune notes that, the earlier those types of actions are recognized as ways of control, the less chance it can escalate to violence.
“It’s the age-old thing of if they don’t have black eyes and bruised ribs, it’s not domestic abuse, and that is not true. There’s a whole spectrum that leads to that, and our goal is to catch it earlier in the spectrum so it doesn’t get to that severe, physical abuse,” said LeJeune.
Willow Tree is also trying to help on the other side of the equation and bring in an outside program to rehabilitate domestic offenders, something that has seen some success in other communities.
“With Willow Tree, our mission is eliminating domestic violence, which means both. We don’t work directly with offenders, but it is still important to us that they are being held accountable legally for their actions, as well as have interventions to try to change and prevent future victims,” she said.
“We just want there to be as many resources as possible,” added Mackey.
DOVE will also hold a Candlelighting Ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 to mourn victims, celebrate survivors and commend those who join in the stand against the crime. It is open to the public and will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 214 S. Charter St., Monticello.
Mackey and LeJeune also praised the efforts of the Piatt County Circuit Clerk’s office, most notably the private room to work on orders of protection.
Circuit Clerk Seth Floyd added, “as recent as last month we had a training session on better ways to address domestic violence victims with an emphasis on the areas in which we encounter them in the Circuit Clerk’s office,” said Floyd.
“Liz Mackey was an excellent facilitator, and I highly recommend to anyone who may have encountered domestic violence victims including clergy, law enforcement, and community groups to arrange a time where they can attend one of her sessions,” he added.
Cards with a list of domestic violence resources are available from law enforcement agencies, at the Piatt County Mental Health Center and the Piatt County Courthouse. Agencies listed include the following:
Willow Tree Missions: 217-631-1018
DOVE, Inc.: 217-762-2123; 762-2122 (24-hour hotline)
Courage Connection: 217-384-4390
Piatt County State’s Attorney Victim’s Advocate: 217-418-8501
Piatt County Mental Health Center: 217-762-5371
Piatt County Circuit Clerk’s Office: 217-762-4966
Piatt County Sheriff’s Department: 217-762-5761
Monticello Police Department: 217-762-7727
Piatt County Trans-portation (PIATTRAN): 217-762-7821
Community Action: 217-762-2421
A Small Hand Infant and Diaper Pantry/Piatt County Cares: 217-480-6291
Piatt County Housing Authority: 217-262-3231
Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center: 217-428-0770