SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield Police Department will now be focusing on domestic violence for their quarterly crime prevention.
This initiative comes during the month of October, which is domestic violence awareness month.
One in three women and one in four men will experience domestic violence.
OzarksFirst spoke to a survivor who didn’t come forward with her abuse until she was sure her family was safe.
“My ex-husband shot a man and beat a woman in the parking lot of Bass Pro, October 8th of 2016,” said Janice Thompson.
Thompson’s ex-husband was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Before the shooting, she had already divorced her abuser.
“People think that you leave and it’s over, and that’s not true, especially when children are involved,” Thompson said.
Thompson started a Facebook page called Surviving Domestic Violence in Missouri where victims can share their stories and help support others.
Jared Alexander, the executive director of Harmony House, says he approves of SPD’s crime prevention focus.
“I think it can only be good if anybody wants to put a focus on domestic abuse and domestic violence in our community, especially our law enforcement partners,” Alexander said. “That only bodes well for our community overall.”
One of the ways Harmony House tries to prevent domestic assault is by educating the public on what it looks like from the outside.
“Are they being isolated from family and friends?” Alexander explained. “Are they not allowed to have access to banking information or financial information of any kind in the home? Or are they not allowed to work? Kids being threatened, pets being threatened, all those things. While one small incident may occur at the beginning, that can lead to much greater problems of ultimately being a very physical, very violent and sometimes deadly occurrence for a victim.”
Thompson said when police respond to domestic violence situations it can be tricky for everyone involved.
“It’s one of the most dangerous calls for an officer to respond to,” Thompson said. “If [abusers] will injure or harm the person that they claim to love, they have no problem with harming somebody that’s coming to their aid. So it’s amazing that SPD is going to focus more on this.”
She tells OzarksFirst it can be a complicated situation that doesn’t always benefit from the abuser being arrested.
“Knowing that sometimes when you respond to our calls, you go from being our savior to our worst enemy,” Thompson said. “Because if you are going to arrest him, that puts us in an unstable situation. We might not be able to get money, we might not have money for children, for our children’s food, for paying the bills, or if they do get arrested, that doesn’t mean that they don’t come out and they come back.”
Last year, Harmony House received 2,800 calls for service. This year, they’re on track to exceed 3,000.
“It’s okay to talk about this because it’s a real problem that’s happening in our community and it is affecting so many people in their lives in so many different ways,” Alexander said.
Aside from SPD working to prevent domestic assault, there are other things that Thompson believes need to be looked into.
“I hope that we have more focus on helping people who have to share custody,” Thompson said. “That’s an obstacle we still have that we really need to work on, is having to share custody with an abuser, what that looks like, and how to keep everybody safe.”
When asked if a victim of domestic violence were to see this story, there were a few things Thompson wants them to know.
“They’re not alone,” Thompson said. “It’s not you. You didn’t do it. You didn’t cause it. You don’t deserve it. And there’s nothing wrong with you. There is help, there is hope. You can have a life free from it. And it’s not easy. But, you know, there are people here in our community that will help you make it out.”