Helping domestic violence survivors


October is known for a lot of things. It’s Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, National Chili and National Cookie Month (yum), Bat Appreciation Month (not making that up), Halloween – of course, and the list goes on. One of the more well-known designations for October is that it’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic violence is serious. It’s ugly. And it’s here in Delaware County. Our community, however, is not alone in suffering the effects of this hideous crime. Domestic violence happens in every county in our great nation. It’s blind to gender, race and socioeconomic status. Simply put, it can affect anyone at any time.

In our office alone, we’ve prosecuted 24 domestic violence cases so far this year. We’ve also assisted victims in filing more than 80 civil protection orders, and that’s only counting the protection orders not related to criminal charges. A civil protection order is a court order that legally requires one party to stay away from the other. It limits all contact, both physical other types of contact, such as over the phone or internet. Of those 80 civil protection orders, more than half (48) have been directly related to domestic violence.

Throughout October, we wear purple to show our support for survivors of domestic violence and to show others we are here for them. We wear purple to remember those who didn’t make it out alive from their abusive relationships. In our office, we are dedicated to prosecuting domestic violence offenders. We have a domestic violence assistant prosecutor– Elizabeth Matune. She understands they cycle of violence and is committed to seeking justice and protecting victims. If you’re tuning into the commissioners session on Monday, we will be presenting a proclamation on behalf of domestic violence survivors.

Domestic violence charges present a unique type of crime. There is manipulation and control, tossed in with “love,” and surrounded by empty promises about change that usually end right back at the beginning with a victim being physically harmed by their loved one. Throughout my career, I have met with countless victims who are hopeless, helpless and often in denial. I have handled numerous cases where a victim doesn’t want to prosecute the offender. But our role as prosecutors is to protect everyone — even those who may not want or understand they need to be protected. The decisions we make as prosecutors can have a significant impact on the future of that victim as well as anyone else who comes into contact with that offender in future. Sadly, domestic violence offenders are often repeat offenders, which is why it is especially important to utilize our justice system to its full extent to protect everyone.

If there’s any positive here, it’s this — my office and many partner agencies in Delaware County are committed to supporting those affected by domestic violence and abuse of any kind. From initial interaction with law enforcement all the way through to any and all hearings within the criminal justice system, victims are not alone. Outside the courtroom we have wonderful advocates in Delaware County who work with victims to get them the help they need. We have an outstanding domestic violence shelter, Turning Point. You don’t even have to stay at the shelter to get help! We also have HelpLine, an amazing community resource, available 24/7 via hotline for all who need a helping hand. As always, if you are in danger, call 911. Please, take advantage of these resources. They are here to help.

Victim Services: 740-833-2845; 740-833-2843; 740-833-2710 Turning Point: 1-800-232-6505 or 740-382-8988; Helpline: 1-800-684-2324 or text 898211;

By Melissa A. Schiffel

Contributing columnist

Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.

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