By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Preventing domestic violence isn’t just a nice vision; it can be a reality, state domestic violence expert Colleen Yeakle said.
Yeakle, along with several other members of the community, will be participating in a community forum Tuesday, Oct. 23, to show parents, teens and other community members what they can do to make Madison County a better, safer place.
“For so long people have thought about domestic violence as something that is inevitable,” said Yeakle, coordinator of the Indiana Coalition of Domestic Violence’s prevention initiative. “It is part of our culture, but our culture is us. Everyone has the opportunity to influence, the power to take a stand and say these aren’t our values.”
The message Yeakle hopes to share as the featured speaker at Tuesday’s forum at Anderson High School, 4610 S. Madison Ave., is one of hope.
The domestic violence activism movement began about 35 years ago with a strong focus on intervention — what can be done to react to the epidemic of family violence and how to help those in that situation. And while that is a critical component, Yeakle said the idea of prevention was often forgotten.
“We were saying, ‘We have to end this violence,’ but we were less prepared to do it or to know how,” she said. “But we can. We do it by addressing social norms that engage the violence.”
A community needs to work together with a common goal of saying, “We won‘t tolerate it,” she said.
“We need to sweat the small stuff,” Yeakle said. “We can’t let abusive behaviors go by in school — abusive language and behaviors aren’t OK with us. We need to address social norms and respectable behavior with organizations, schools and the community where youth and adults spend their time. We need to emphasize healthy and respectable relationships at home, in the community and in the workplace.”
She said if the entire community is on the same page and is successful in fostering those expectations, then it will be harder and harder for individuals to choose to abuse because everyone will be saying together, “It is not OK with us.”
In addition to Yeakle, the panel will include several others covering the spectrum of the community’s response to domestic violence. Elwood resident Brittany Stout will share her story of survival from a domestic violence situation. Alternatives Victim’s Advocate Kandi Floyd and Alternative’s Prevention Specialist Todd Cawthorn will talk about services Alternative’s provides and the dangers and signs of teen dating violence.
Elwood assistant police chief Scott Bertram will talk about law enforcement’s approach to domestic violence as well as a representative from the Madison County prosecutor’s office to answer any questions about how they handle these delicate cases.
Vaughn Walker, supervisor of the Batterer’s Intervention Program at S.O.S. Counseling, plans to share information about the services the organization provides to treat offenders.
The forum, sponsored by The Herald Bulletin and Anderson Community Schools, will be an opportunity to begin a dialogue in the community about domestic violence and what can be done to help prevent it. There will be a chance for questions from the audience.
“Those there will have offered the opportunity think about where their influence is,” Yeakle said. “They can see they can influence their children, their friends, their congregation. We want every person to identify how they can be a part of the solution, using their voice and influence to take a stand for healthy behaviors.
“It is easy to feel insignificant in responding to this huge problem. It is easy to feel you can’t do anything about it, that it is bigger than you and you should just leave it to others. I am going to say, ‘You have a piece of this and you can carry a piece of this and make a difference.’”