HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. — At Sheltering Wings, calls to its crisis line are only increasing.
“We’re seeing the degree of danger that people are experiencing to be higher when they’re first calling in,” said Executive Director Cassie Mecklenburg.
Though Sheltering Wings offers emergency housing and services to survivors of domestic violence, Mecklenburg said people are still waiting longer to reach out and seek their help.
“The reality of it is we’re often times not the first responder because often times people are going to go to someone that they feel more comfortable with, that they know and that they trust already,” she said. “They’re confiding in a friend, a co-worker, someone in their civic group.”
That’s who organizers are trying to reach.
As part of its WE KNOW THE SIGNS campaign, Sheltering Wings is expanding free domestic violence training to businesses, churches and other organizations. The goal is to educate groups on how to spot and address domestic violence among employees, congregations or clients they serve.
Mecklenburg said the training is catered to whatever entity they’re working with and can last in duration for as long as they need, whether it be a couple of hours, a luncheon or whatever works best.
“We’ll make sure to cover topics that are specific to that industry for that community because we want to make sure that it’s really helpful,” Mecklenburg said.
Chase Cotten, community director for The Willow Center in Brownsburg, said his agency plans to take advantage of the training as they mainly work with clients struggling with mental health and substance use.
“We are working with many, many different types of families throughout Hendricks County, and in the Central Indiana area, who may be vulnerable to experiencing things, like domestic abuse, in addition to what they’re experiencing emotionally,” said Cotten.
“You might think as a healthcare entity, or mental health, that we already know, and that just simply isn’t always the case,” he added. “Even though we are treating substance use and mental health, domestic abuse is often times commingling with those types of experiences.”
By incorporating the free training method, Cotten said it helps them better serve clients and connects them to vital resources quicker, which is what Mecklenburg said they’re also aiming for.
“We’re all in this together. It is our goal to help people live healthy, thriving lives, not just surviving,” he said.
“We want to empower and equip people to be able to have that conversation,” Mecklenburg said. “They don’t ever have to be an expert of domestic abuse. They can always refer them back to Sheltering Wings, but just to help them start that is the first step.”
Danyette Smith is the director for the Indy Champions for Domestic Violence Prevention. Often working with families severely impacted by domestic violence in the city, and as a survivor herself, she said it’s important for workplaces, schools, churches and other organizations to take advantage of similar services, as domestic violence doesn’t always appear one way.
“I can personally remember when I was sitting behind my desk. I personally can remember, even at churches, when I was sitting behind at that pew, trying to praise God, knowing that I was leaving and going home to abuse,” Smith said. “These are people that go to work. Those are people that go to church, and the only way that we can get to them sometimes, is the environments that it’s ok for them to go to.”
“If we can get those businesses and churches to open the doors more and allow us to come in and educate, it’s super important. We would change the dynamics of domestic violence within our city,” she said.