Statistics released by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department show domestic violence cases trending up so far this year.

If the current trend of 18 cases from January through March continues at the current pace, there will be 72 cases by the end of this year.

That would mark a 36% jump from last year, as well as an 11% increase from 2019, according to the sheriff’s department.

In response, Sheriff Matt Myers said he has given his deputies a directive — if they find probable cause during a domestic violence incident, they should make an arrest at the scene immediately.

Probable cause is usually a visible sign of injury on the person suspected of being abused, Chief Deputy Maj. Chris Lane said.

But even if there is no arrest, a report will be forwarded to the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office for review, Myers said. If prosecutors feel it is warranted, an arrest will be made as soon as possible, he said.

When asked by domestic violence incidents are increasing, Shafran said she doesn’t have definitive evidence at this time.

But, she said she has to believe the subsiding COVID-19 pandemic has been a contributing factor.

“Now that some of the restrictions are beginning to ease up, we certainly are seeing more and more people coming out of isolation and reaching out to us for services,” Shafran said. “The numbers continue to increase for those needing both case managers and residential facilities.”

In addition, the depth of required services has gone up substantially in such areas as dealing with unemployment, child care and health care needs, Shafran said.

“But the biggest need in services has been in mental health and substance abuse issues,” she said. “You might expect all of these problems as a result of isolation, as well as global economic insecurity.”

It’s not always one person physically hurting another. In some ways, emotional and financial abuse can be just as serious and devastating as physical violence, Shafran said. That’s because emotional and financial abuse can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health and earnings capability for the rest of their lives, she said.

After Myers declared a “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence cases this month, Shafran said she felt it was the right thing to do.

“We are very fortunate to have the relationship we have with law enforcement in Bartholomew County,” she said. “They have always been in tremendous support for us and our clients.”

Victims need to be assured the abuse is not their fault, and that no person deserves to be hurt emotionally or physically, Lane said.

The sheriff’s department may also be able to help make lodging arrangements with friends or family members to keep the survivor and perpetrator apart until the situation becomes calmer, Lane said.

“We will help you in any way that we can to make sure you are safe,” Lane said to victims.

In addition, both perpetrators and victims need to understand that just because nobody is immediately taken into custody after an incident of violence, it does not mean an arrest is not forthcoming, Myers said.

While most of these policies have been effect for quite some time, Lane said the declaration was made because most survivors, as well as perpetrators, appear to be unaware they exist. Most don’t understand how seriously local law enforcement takes domestic violence.

“So the declaration is really more of an education tool than a new policy,” Lane said.

Many witnesses also need to be educated that they should speak out to the proper authorities whenever they see domestic violence, rather than turn their backs on the victims and allow the abuse to continue, Lane said.

“Sometimes victims are afraid to report an incident, which means family, friends or co-workers need to come forward on their behalf,” Lane said.

Where to learn more

Besides Bartholomew, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services also serves those residing in Brown, Decatur, Jennings, Jackson, Johnson and Shelby counties.

The Emergency Shelter and Hotline Services are not limited to these counties. Turning Point representatives says they will never turn away anyone seeking safety or services for domestic violence.

Additional information regarding the many different ways south central Indiana residents can escape the traumatic consequences of domestic violence can be found online at turningpointdv.org

Their toll-free hotline number is 1-800-221-6311.