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At a glance
What is domestic violence? Domestic violence is a pattern of violent behaviors that a person uses against their intimate partner to gain power and control. It includes any type of physical, emotional, financial, verbal, spiritual, social and sexual abuse inflicted within an intimate relationship.
What to do if you fear you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence? Call Alternatives Inc.'s 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-593-9999. The agency can help with sheltering, assisting in getting a protective order or connecting you with other resources like counseling services.
ANDERSON -- The 33-year-old Madison County woman knew she was at risk.
Her husband had threatened to kill her and her family; that's why she didn't leave even after he physically and emotionally abused her.
Then Amanda Wiles,31, was killed. That changed everything for the woman.
The violent and shocking murder of Wiles -- reportedly at the hands of her mother's estranged boyfriend, Roy Parmley, on June 9 -- followed by a threat from the 33-year-old's husband that "If you thought Amanda Wiles was bad you haven't seen nothing," was the push the woman needed to leave. She found shelter at Alternatives Inc. just three days after Wiles' murder.
Staff members at Alternatives are hearing stories eerily similar to that woman's. The shelter went from about 30 beds occupied in May to 45 in early August, just three shy of "capacity," although Alternatives CEO Mary Jo Lee said they're never too full to take in someone who needs shelter.
The number of new clients doubled from May to June with the agency's victim advocates expecting it to continue to rise after a domestic violence situation turned deadly in Pendleton a little more than a week ago.
Kandi Floyd, an Alternatives victim's advocate, received 12 new clients in the week following Wiles' death. She typically receives three or four a week. She returned to work last Friday with countless messages; her phone hasn't stopped ringing since the Pendleton incident where Kenneth Bailey Jr. threatened his estranged wife on July 29. During the melee he shot and killed a passer-by and injured three police officers before killing himself.
"People are now thinking, 'This really can happen,'" Floyd said. "And I think (Wiles' murder) touched people differently. He didn't kill Terri (Wiles), he killed her daughter in front of her. Anyone that's a parent was shaken to the core."
Terri Wiles, Amanda Wiles' mom, said suspect Roy Parmley bound her and her daughter's arms and feet with duct tape, placed a wire around each of their necks tying them together and then told them he would "take away something dear" to Terri Wiles. He then killed Amanda Wiles by shooting her in the face with a shotgun, according to a civil law suit Terri Wiles recently filed against Parmley.
Thankful for Alternatives
Christy Clark, who is Alternatives victim advocate in the Elwood area, said these cases are hitting close to home for some.
"We hear that abusers say, 'If you leave I will kill the kids,' all the time," Clark said. "Now they hear it, and they know that it really could happen."
It didn't take the deaths of two innocent people to bring Sherry, 34, to Alternatives. She's been staying at the shelter with her three kids -- aged 16-months to 13 -- for close to 45 days. The Hamilton County woman's story is sad but one advocates like Floyd and Clark hear every day.
Sherry was raised in foster homes after her mother was physically abusive and after the men in her mother's life were sexually abusive to her. She moved to a different foster home nearly every year and at 19 was the driver in a car accident that killed her 6-year-old foster sister. A month later she was raped. To deal with her traumas, Sherry turned to alcohol until she discovered she was pregnant with her now 13-year-old son, which she said changed her life.
Sherry was a single mom for more than seven years and struggled to make ends meet. She was exhausted from working two jobs, going to school and caring for her son so she rushed into a relationship with her husband and moved away from her support system.
The man she is now divorcing choked her, controlled her, took things away, put her down and slammed her into counters.
"This place has been incredible," Sherry said of Alternatives. "If it wasn't for the shelter and the advocates I'd still be in the situation. I wouldn't have been able to get out on my own. I'm so thankful."
Avoiding future abuse
A 26-year-old Madison County mother of two, who declined to identify herself for publication out of fear, said "enough was finally enough" for her and she fled her six-year abusive marriage and came to Alternatives in March. The woman said her husband choked her, forced her to stay inside, isolated her from friends and family and put her down among other types of physical, emotional and financial abuse. She is now seven-months pregnant.
"I was scared of him, scared of what he was going to do to me, scared to leave," she said. "But enough was enough, and I was tired of him and being scared. I wanted to be independent."
The woman said Alternatives staffers helped her find a job, get a car and do a litany of things on her own. They helped her become independent.
"I don't want to put my kids through what I went through growing up," she said, tears streaming down her face. "My mom was physically and emotionally abusive. I want to do better for them.
"It's not been easy, but I've learned that I can do it. And you could, too."
Sherry said she knows how hard it can be to leave an abusive relationship but said she's never regretted it.
"You have to be ready," she said. "No one can make you or convince you to leave. But once you are ready to leave Alternatives is who you need to go to for help."
More than a shelter
Many in the community think "shelter" when they hear of Alternatives, but the majority of the agency's services have nothing to do with housing. National statistics show that only 3 percent of domestic violence victims seek shelter. That means 97 percent of them need other services, services that Alternatives either provides or helps get victims.
Some of the things Alternatives does beyond sheltering include providing advocates to assist victims with filing protective orders, attending criminal or civil proceedings and with law enforcement; resource referral; assisting with victims receiving counseling and medical treatment; educating and training law enforcement and the community and manning a 24/7 crisis line.
The first step for victims, Lee said, is to admit that they are victims.
"A lot of those that die at the hands of their abuser never experienced physical violence before their death," she said. "So many feel like they aren't really a victim and shouldn't call or ask for help. Or they will be apologetic.
"Abuse is abuse."
Clark said many victims don't realize the kind of situation they are in until they go through a danger assessment -- a list of questions about a relationship, something an advocate can do.
Actions like intimidation, putting down a victim, controlling him or her, workplace sabotage and manipulation are all forms of abuse without th presence of physical interaction.
Another misconception is that men can't be victims. Lee said that 15 percent of reported cases of abuse have male victims and the number is much higher as men are less likely to report out of shame and embarrassment. Alternatives is seeing more male victims and stress that they don't serve just women, they serve domestic violence victims.
Lee became emotional, wiping tears from her eyes, while talking about the two recent incidents and the dozens of other fatal domestic violence incidents Alternatives has seen over the past several years.
"It gets easy to forget about all the families you have helped and saved," she said. "I know we've made a difference, but it's hard."
Expectation of violence
Assistant Elwood Police Chief Scott Bertram said law enforcement agencies, unfortunately, expect these kinds of violent incidents to happen and at least be attempted.
"It seems that violence is occurring more often and is becoming more violent," he said. "I would love the state legislature to change domestic violence from a piddly misdemeanor to felonies. I think it could change a lot. These people have built up a tolerance to regular misdemeanors so now the violence is being stepped up. We are seeing more strangulations and where before an intimidation would be 'I'm going to punch you in the face,' now it is 'I'm going to kill you.'"
Recently Elwood police handled a case where a man reportedly intimidating his partner by stabbing the bed as she laid there.
"If he is taking that much of a risk, if he is that angry, how small of a step would it take to go from stabbing the bed to stabbing her," Bertram said. "I don't feel like it would take that much. And that scares me."