Flowers in the St. Marys River Wednesday to honor domestic battery victims

If Mike McAlexander, Allen County’s chief deputy prosecutor, had to guess, domestic battery is a crime men dominate by at least a three to one margin, if not higher.

Because of legislative changes in the last 10 years, battery in the presence of a child accounts for a lot of the battery cases, he said Wednesday, the day the YWCA chose to honor domestic battery victims with flowers cast into the St. Marys River at the Wells Street Bridge.

McAlexander says his knowledge comes from working in the prosecutor’s office for more than two decades and watching the stream of cases come through the office. Strangulation is often a companion charge.

Karen Richards, Allen County prosecutor, sat down with WANE 15 Wednesday afternoon with insights into the problem.

“In general, I think we see more domestic battery than we ever have which is really unfortunate,” said Richards, who was first elected as county prosecutor 20 years ago. “It is something that affects not only people who are victims, but it affects their children. It affects your ability to go to work. It affects a whole lot of different things and the problem with domestic violence is, if you don’t try to solve the problem within the family unit when it first happens, then the children and the family tend to repeat the same conduct in the future.”

Richards said it’s mostly men who commit domestic violence against women and children, “but we have a lot more women than we’ve ever had being physically abusive to children because women are becoming more equal. We have a lot more women committing domestic violence against their partners whether their partners are men or women,” Richards said.

Another problem is the increasing abuse of children. “I think we’re seeing a lot more domestic battery inflicted on children by parents and again, that becomes cyclical. If you abuse your child, that child grows up to believe that sort of relationship is the normal, which it is not,” Richards noted. Reasonably priced and available daycare along with trained professional counselors could ease the situation, she added.

State statistics for 2021 and 2022 up to the end of September seem to show last year was slightly worse with the pandemic coming to an end.

In 2021 in Allen County, 13,112 people were arrested. Of those, 1,513 were arrested for domestic battery and 267 for strangulation, making up nearly 85% of violent crimes against another person that would include murder, battery, domestic battery, domestic violence, intimidation, and robbery besides domestic battery and strangulation.

This year, up until the end of last month, 738 people were arrested for domestic battery and 128 for strangulation, a total that makes up nearly 84% of violent crimes against another person or nearly the same percentage. But the year has three more months to go.

As the YWCA Northeast Indiana prepared to drop flowers on the river at the Wells Street Bridge Wednesday to honor people affected by domestic violence, the organization also provided statistics that one in four women and one in every 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, a phenomenon the CDC called the Shadow Pandemic. It resulted in a nearly 200% jump in domestic violence-related homicides, the YWCA release stated.

Richards also stated that the pandemic seemed to make the problem of domestic abuse worse.

“One of the reasons is people are confined with each other in a tight space for a long period of time when that isn’t traditionally the way we live our lives. So small things that bother somebody become a big thing when you’re stuck together for months on end and you don’t go out,” Richards said.

McAlexander says the crime is not particular to any age group. “That is one that covers all ages,” he said. “You can look at a list and see teenagers on up to people in their 60s.” Often, the domestic situation involves alcohol, he added.

Prosecutors rely on a police officer’s first-hand report to file charges, along with any photos taken and hospitalizations. But hospitalization is not necessary, even for a felony charge.

“It can be a felony, even if there’s no injury,” McAlexander said. One of those is domestic battery in the presence of a child. “You see a wide variety of injuries and sometimes non injuries.”

Being arrested does not mean the individual is prosecuted.

The biggest challenge in prosecuting domestic battery is cooperation, McAlexander said. “A lot of people are married and had fights with their spouses and then they make up.”

Anyone dealing with domestic violence issues can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788 if you do not feel comfortable speaking over the phone. These services are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.