Communication Essential in Fight Against Domestic Violence in Rural Communities

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KIMBERLING CITY, Mo. — Many communities spread across Stone and Taney counties have small but powerful organizations doing the work to help victims and survivors. While the distance between them can be an issue, advocates tell me it’s communication that’s their biggest weapon. 

In Galena Missouri, the only noise breaking up the silence on a dreary February afternoon is the sound of a passing train. But in this small town, like in many others in this county, there’s a big issue that calls for attention. 

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby says his office sees up to 200 domestic violence cases a year. 

“That tends to be pretty typical for us,” he said. 

But he says law enforcement is responding to, and an area shelter is assisting twice that number. 

“When we sit down and look it’s not usually the same people,” Selby said. “Because the typical person who is in that situation doesn’t usually call the police. It  takes a while for them to build to that point.” 

Many times, victims are calling direct services, like Harbor House, a shelter in Kimberling City for women and children fleeing violence at home. 

The shelter can house up to ten women and four mothers and children.

“At times it isn’t big enough, but most of the time we are OK,” Trump said.  

She says the shelter accepts women from a wide area. 

“We basically serve any area in Missouri, even down into Arkansas,” she said. “We don’t really have boundaries because we are so close to Arkansas.”

She says transportation has proven to be a challenge, especially when victims make that first call. 

“Providing transportation to a victim of domestic violence can be very dangerous because we don’t know what we are getting into, where we are really going, where the abuser is. So, we usually encourage them to get transportation on their own, from a family member, friend, someone that could be trusted.” 

The resources are also spread out but are well connected. 

“A lot of rural areas, every place you go in Stone County, basically,” Trump said.  

“The lines of communication of the agencies that we work closely with are very open,” said Melinda Ingram, director and child forensic interviewer at Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center. “And if some situation comes up and we don’t have the answers, we know immediately who we can call.” 

The Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center is where children tell in their own words if they were victims of abuse. 

“But if children, who have witnessed domestic violence are also victims of a crime, and there are times that we provide interviews for those children, too,” Ingram said.  

She says the number of children who have been witnesses to crime has increased in the past few years.  Prosecutor Selby says there’s a strong correlation between domestic violence and child abuse. That’s why it’s important the agencies work so closely together. 

He says the partnership can also help victims stay on board throughout the criminal process. 

“The suspect either directly or indirectly continues to put pressure on them, not to continue with the prosecution,” Selby said. “That’s where helping them connect with these other resources, helps them stay on board.” 

If survivors need help with the legal process, Harbor House can help them connected with Legal Services of Southern Missouri, which provides free discounted legal aid for victims of domestic violence. 

“We partner with the Private Bar, they handle our cases for free or at a reduced rate,” said Sharon Alexander, director of development at  Legal Services of Southern Missouri. “Though we may not be physically in a certain community we do partner with members of the Private Bar to handle our cases, so the victims are working with someone locally and not with someone hours away,”  

These advocates say they know its a painful, difficult step, but say they’re here to listen and speak up for them when victims are ready to break their silence. 

Christian Associates is the non-profit which Harbor House works under. It also provides a  food pantry and thrift stores for survivors. 

In Taney County, the Women’s Crisis Center also provides shelter and non-residential services to victims and survivors of domestic violence. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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