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Domestic violence expert to speak at YWCA’s Circle of Women fundraiser
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
On December 2nd, the Circle of Women fundraiser for the YWCA will feature Mike McCarty, a former police detective in Nashville, Tennessee and now at the Public Training Institute in Danville, Indiana, where he conducts seminars and workshops on responding to domestic violence.
McCarty works with law enforcement officials (during his visit, he’ll talk to the Fort Wayne police department, which recently received funding to develop a domestic violence response team), schools, employers, medical professionals, and others on raising awareness and coordinating efforts in the community.
The YWCA’s annual Circle of Women fundraiser raises money for the organization’s domestic violence services, which includes the women’s shelter, the outreach program, and the self-sufficiency program. “Everything is underwritten, so everything we raise goes directly to the programs,” says Melanie Hall, chairperson for the Circle of Women. “This year, our goal is to raise $200,000.”
McCarty’s talk at the fundraiser will focus on the effects of domestic abuse on children. His presentation will include audio clips, drawings children have done in art therapy, and his personal experience from decades’ worth of work in the field. “I just relate it (domestic violence) to some real experiences, anecdotal stuff I encountered as a detective in Nashville and from what I saw as a child,” McCarty says. “Not that it happened to me, but my parents brought folks into our home that were fleeing this, and I saw what impact it was having on those children.”
McCarty’s mother was a victims’ advocate and his father was a state trooper in Waveland, Indiana. Growing up, the McCarty home served as a temporary haven for victims of domestic violence and their families. He says that these experiences instilled in him a sense of the wide-ranging effects of the crime, the way it not only impacted the lives of the victims, but infiltrated an entire community and could have repercussions many years down the road. “This crime really is the genesis for every other crime the police deal with,” McCarty says. “A kid raised in this kind of home doesn’t always grow up to be a batterer, but he might grow up to be a bank robber, or a drug dealer, so it really impacts overall crime rates.”
But sometimes, McCarty concedes, it’s hard to get people to see “the big picture.” That was the problem he encountered when in 1994, as a police detective in Nashville, Tennessee, he assembled a unit to combat the city’s high rate of domestic violence incidents — a staggering 18,000 to 20,000 a year, including an average of 25 murders a year. Before 1994, McCarty says, battery or domestic abuse was usually treated as a “private family matter,” If the victim didn’t want to press charges, the incident usually ended there. Sometimes police made an arrest, but there wasn’t any follow-up with the victim.
McCarty help develop a coordinated community response to the issue, working with law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services to follow up every single case, getting victims counseling and holding batterers accountable.
The results were dramatic. Immediately the domestic homicide numbers dropped by 50% (going as low as 8 domestic homicides in 1999), the recidivism rate plummeted, and the graduation rate of batterers’ programs (designed to change the behavior of perpetrators of domestic violence) climbed from 28% to 78%. “Those are just the short term,” McCarty says. “The long term is the impact on Nashville in the next five or six years, now that they’ll be 15 years into this, and these kids who would normally grow up and replicate the violence inside or outside the home.”
McCarty’s work in Nashville earned the program accolades from President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.
Many other communities have started similar programs to the one McCarty helped create in Nashville, but McCarty says that we’re still a long way from having some kind of uniform, nation-wide response to the problem, and there are still many myths associated with domestic violence that hinder our approach to dealing with it.
“One of the biggest myths out there is that the people who commit this crime are out of control, and it’s so far to the contrary,” he says. “These are some of the most controlled, in-control people I’ve ever been around. I’ve got photo after photo of injuries where they’ve actually targeted specific areas of the victim’s body, or the way they destroyed property, or decided to kill a family member. There’s a big process they went through to make that decision. I think a lot of the general public thinks these guys flip out and lose control, get stressed out, and kill their wife or their kids. That’s absolutely not true. There’s a pattern there. If you have someone who believes that it’s alright to hurt people, then you add stress to it, it’s a huge impact on the volume and frequency of the violence.”
For more information on the Circle of Women fundraiser on December 2nd, call Sue Hiatt at (260) 424-4908 ext. 254.