By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. —
Alternatives is packed, at capacity.
And while some may think the Anderson domestic violence shelter would be a somber one, instead it is a building filled with laughter and joy.
It is the children of the shelter — 32 right now — that remind staff what it is all about. They see these children come in scared, dull eyed, shy and unable to lift their head. And within days they are feeling more safe and comfortable, the nightmares have subsided and they start to be children again, running and playing in the halls and on the playground, said Alternatives CEO Mary Jo Lee.
Right now the shelter’s children range in age three-weeks to 17.
Seeing those children is a stark reminder of the other victims of domestic violence.
Joshua Delph, 9, was killed May 17, 2004, in a house fire with his mother Robynn. His father was accused of intentionally setting the fire. Robbie and Brittany Jenkins — 2 and 3 respectively — who died in a car crash after their father drove away in a rage after getting in a fight with their mother on Nov. 9, 1991. Kelsey Abraham, 5, was fatally shot by her father July 28, 1997, during his first visitation after her parents divorced.
Lee said each of those deaths — all happening in Madison County or were cases that Alternatives was involved in — have left a lasting impact on her and the other staff.
“It’s just terrible,” she said, sadly.
Alternatives’ childcare area is named “Robbie’s Room” and the garden just outside it “Brittany’s Garden.” Each has a plaque in remembrance of the children.
“We want to help people realize that it isn’t only the spouse or the partner that suffers or dies from the abuse,” she said. “Children are also abused or suffer from the abuse. Everyone that comes through here, we are able to talk to them about what happened to Robbie and Brittany. And it serves as a reminder for us every day too.”
In many cases the abuser will use the tactic of threatening to abuse the child to gain compliance over a spouse. And in some instances the perpetrator will carry out that threat. In June, Roy Parmley did just that when he killed his estranged girlfriend’s daughter Amanda Wiles, 31, in front of her mother, Terri Wiles, sparing Terri Wiles’ life.
Lee pointed out that living in these abusive environments has a great impact on the child.
“For many, they think it is normal,” she said. “This is how they think life is; that people hurt you.”
Alternatives provides a safe place for these children which Lee said she hopes changes that pattern of abuse and makes them realize life can be happy.
“I want to think that because we are here and have been able to show these children that not everyone is going to hurt them, that not every home has horrible things happening, that maybe they won’t carry all those terrible emotional scars from their past,” Lee said. “We at least try.”
Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.