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Prosecutor's Office and Middle Way House Team Up To Address Domestic Violence
Updated November 13, 2017 7:32 AM
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(BLOOMINGTON) - Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal and Middle Way House Executive Director Debra Morrow met over the summer to brainstorm new ideas to better address domestic violence.

For both Gaal and Morrow, the issue of strangulation was at the top of that list.

Each recently attended in-depth trainings about strangulation and clearly recognized the seriousness of the problem. Strangulation occurs when a victim's breathing or blood circulation is cut off, and can result in serious injury or even death. Research shows that an attempted strangulation significantly increases the risk of future homicide. They agreed to prioritize the issue and move forward as quickly as possible to better address it.

"In a strangulation, a perpetrator can release and re-apply pressure to the neck repeatedly, emphasizing over and over again that they have power and control over the victim," said Gaal. "And because strangulation may happen without even leaving a physical mark, perpetrators may tell the victim that they won't be believed."

"Strangulation victims often experience trauma, and may have difficulty recalling and clearly expressing what they experienced," added Morrow. "What's more, medical or physical evidence may be missed by first responders, affecting the quality of an investigation."

Strangulation cases are difficult to investigate, document and prosecute. But the good news is that there are promising new best practices that have recently emerged. Research and experience from jurisdictions around the country shows how such practices can make a big difference to improve the response to strangulation when implemented. Gaal and Morrow decided to co-sponsor a community training to learn about those practices.

The training is unusual in that it will be cross-disciplinary - including first responders from law enforcement, the medical profession, social service agencies, and victim advocacy groups - all learning together side-by-side. The training will be conducted by Kelsey McKay, a nationally-recognized expert on the latest research and emerging best practices for first responders to strangulation. It is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Wegmiller Auditorium at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Both law enforcement and nurses will be able to receive continuing education credits for attending.

Following the training, Gaal and Morrow intend to keep working together to encourage implementation of those best practices by local first responders. They hope to have made significant progress by the time of a local domestic violence conference in the spring of next year.

In addition, the Prosecutor's Office and Middle Way House are also moving forward with a public education campaign aimed at encouraging both victims and bystanders who are aware that domestic violence is occurring, to come forward and seek help. "You are not alone," urges the message. "Together we can break the cycle."

"You can either call 911 to report an incident to law enforcement, or you can call the Middle Way 24-hour crisis line just to talk to someone - whatever you are comfortable with," said Morrow. "But people should know that there are resources available to help."

"Our ultimate goal is to promote a more peaceful community free from domestic violence," said Gaal. "And the way to do that is to work together positively and collaboratively to improve our local response."

For Middle Way House's free, confidential crisis line, call (812) 336-0846

MONROE COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE:

The Monroe County Prosecutor's Office represents the people of Indiana to seek justice, promote greater public safety, and assist victims of crimes. They receive reports from law enforcement agencies and file criminal charges in appropriate cases. The Prosecutor's Office

will vigorously prosecute those who are guilty, while ensuring that the innocent are not wrongly convicted or oppressed. They work proactively with law enforcement and other organizations to encourage crime prevention and education efforts that enhance public safety and improve the quality of life in the community.

KELSEY MCKAY:

Kelsey McKay was an Assistant District Attorney in Texas who specialized in handling domestic violence, sex crime, and strangulation cases. She now travels the country in high demand as a consultant to provide training on the latest research and emerging best practices for effectively responding to strangulation.

MIDDLE WAY HOUSE:

Since 1971, Middle Way House has been providing services to people in crisis. Today, Middle Way House provides emergency shelter; a 24-hour crisis line; on-scene advocacy; support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking; transitional and permanent housing solutions for survivors; legal advocacy; and education and prevention programs. Middle Way House serves six counties in southern Indiana, relying on a staff of 70 and a volunteer force of 300+ to provide around-the-clock response to abuse and assault. Middle Way House has been recognized as one of six national model programs by the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information, please visit: For both Gaal and Morrow, the issue of strangulation was at the top of that list.



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