Do your homework before voting

Published 12:01 am Friday, July 24, 2015

As the director of The Guardian Shelter for Battered Families, Catholic Charities, Inc., I read with interest the Sunday, July 12, edition of the Natchez Democrat that highlighted the four candidate’s response for the office of sheriff to the question of “How can the Sheriff’s Office address domestic violence.”

I was saddened and disturbed that none of the candidates referenced The Guardian Shelter as the designated organization for the protection of the families of domestic violence.

The Miss. Code of 1972, Domestic Law 93-21-105 mandates there be a domestic violence shelter in each of the nine Mississippi Highway Patrol Districts.

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Catholic Charities Inc. was asked in 1982 to establish a domestic violence shelter that serves 11 counties in Southwest Mississippi. Having been in operation for the past 22 years, I was appalled that none of the candidates recognized our organization as being the expert in the field of domestic violence nor expressed a desire to work with our program in the future.

Domestic violence is not a problem of anger management. Domestic violence, like sexual assault, is about power and control for the person who is the perpetrator. Anger control counseling for a person who feels they have not only the opportunity but have the “right” to inflict any means necessary to maintain the power and control of the individual and family will likely not see their anger as an issue.

There is rarely a day that both the Natchez Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff Department do not arrest someone for domestic violence, simple assault, aggravated assault, or disturbing the peace. I understand that not all of these arrests are domestic violence related. Earlier this year, I requested from the Mississippi Attorney General’s office statistics for our area and was given the following: For 2014, the Sheriff’s Department averaged about 100 calls that were domestic violence related.

In 2013 the Natchez Police Department had 294 complaints of domestic violence with 80 arrests.

These numbers are staggering for our county of approximately 32,000. While each victim is different with perhaps mental illness issues in the home, substance abuse, or economic factors but when we as citizens decide to vote based on factors rather than responsibilities, we will continue to have individuals who are murdered or abused in many ways for years to come.

None of us in the helping profession can force victims to do certain things but what we can do is make sure the men and women who have taken on the role as a first responder in these cases will make sure each victim knows their options for safety.

It often takes a victim at least four to seven times to leave the abusive relationship before the victim realizes independence is obtainable without the abuser.

The expectation that a victim must want help is a concept that doesn’t actually enter into the victim’s thinking at the time of the abusive incident.

I do agree our communities need to be involved in community education. Apparently the fact that a safe-haven already exists is not common knowledge to the community.

Presently our shelter facility is at capacity. Women are more likely to move into safety while school is out. We have 13 children today and as a staff it is our job to help these mothers get into safe housing so that their children ranging from one month to twelve years of age have the opportunity to grow in a non-violent home.

Mr. Cooper’s editorial on Sunday, July 12, encouraged voters to use more common sense when voting.

I want to encourage the community to be extremely mindful in the upcoming elections of the importance of electing candidates who have done their homework and can assure voters that they know the reality of domestic violence on all levels in Adams County and the plan to address this very real issue.


Donna Miller is program director at The Guardian Shelter