Clothesline Project brings awareness to domestic violence

As COVID-19 turned our world upside down last year, accounts of domestic violence were quietly growing.

In 2020, there were 98 victims of domestic violence in Indiana, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

That number spans from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, and is up substantially from previous years. In 2019, there were 57 victims. In 2018, there were 59. In 2017, there were 56, and in 2016, there were 53 victims in Indiana.

With regard to the pandemic, there appears to be a direct correlation between social isolation, stress, alcohol, economic anxiety and joblessness and sheltering in place with the increase of intimate partner violence, according to the website.

In coordination with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Clothesline Project was held Friday outside Cummins Seymour Engine Plant along East Fourth Street in Seymour.

“We have been holding this event for many years but did skip last year due to the pandemic,” Cummins employee Candace Foist said.

Foist is a member of the Cummins Community Involvement Team and serves as a liaison between the company and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, which has an office in Jackson County.

Turning Point’s mission is to help victims of domestic violence and bring to light the seriousness of the issue and the impact it has on individuals, families and the community.

This was Foist’s sixth year to lead the Clothesline Project and the eighth year Cummins has participated overall.

”In years past, Turning Point provided us with a list of victims’ names and ages that we had Cummins SEP employees decorate in honor of each victim,” Foist said. “This year, Turning Point changed the thoughts on this. Instead of honoring the victims by names, we are remembering the victims while also focusing on bringing awareness to domestic violence.”

She went on to say, Cummins SEP employees decorated 30 shirts to bring awareness to domestic violence. In addition, they are pairing with the Turning Point Teens for Change group, who also decorated 12 shirts that were hung up alongside the others.

Teens for Change is a dating violence awareness and prevention council. The teens work to promote healthy relationships in the community and surrounding areas and also plan, organize and execute events to help raise awareness surrounding dating and domestic violence.

Some of the quotes on the shirts read ‘Change is possible,’ ‘Everyone deserves to be safe,’ ‘Never give up’ and ‘It starts with me.’

Several Turning Point employees attended the event, including Mirna Garcia, the Latino case manager at Turning Point in Bartholomew County.

“This year, the shirts were decorated with positive messages and words of encouragement to let people know we are here to help and they are not alone,” she said.

Turning Point President Lisa Shafran was the first speaker at the ceremony and began by thanking those in attendance and then thanking Foist and Cummins for continuing to organize the event and said the Clothesline Project is a very visible sign of the needs we have around the issues of domestic violence and dating violence.

“I also want to thank all of our community partners who stand beside us, and it’s very important to have those community partners,” Shafran said. “This year, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported 98 domestic violence-related deaths, which is up 181% from the year before, so clearly, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Shafran said there are so many positive things happening in the communities, specifically here in Jackson County, and she is very proud of all of the work the team does and how it works with the community partners.

“Today, as we go through this process, I just want everybody to think about continuing to stand up against violence, all kinds of violence, specifically domestic and dating violence, in your community,” she said.

Shafran, who will be retiring at the end of 2021 after serving eight and a half years as president, introduced Whittney Loyd, who will be stepping into the role of president in January 2022.

Charlotte Moss, a representative for Turning Point in Jackson County, announced the winners of three awards given to people who support the organization.

“One of our award winners is Zach Spicer from The Tribune, and he received the Community Impact award,” Moss said. “Zach has a heart to help with the teens, and any time I have any kind of event, the students ask me if Zach is going to be there.”

Moss went on to announce the Teen Volunteer of the Year award went to Malaine Lampkin, a sophomore at Seymour High School.

“The resilience of the kids in this community is amazing, and Malaine has been so supportive,” Moss said. “She will call me and see if I need any help getting ahold of other students.”

The last award went to Amanda Shrader, who works for the Children’s Bureau in Jackson County and used to work at Turning Point.

“Nothing slowed Amanda down during COVID with any of our clients, and any obstacle that we had, she worked with us on trying to help our clients, and she’s very dedicated,” Moss said. “She is the recipient of our Mission Partner of the Year award.”

Also at the event was Mayor Matt Nicholson and members of the law enforcement community, including Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer, Chief Deputy Dustin Steward, Seymour Police Department Officer Craig Owens and Probationary Officer Kayla Griffin.

Griffin said she works second shift from 3 to 11 p.m. when domestic violence is most likely to take place.

“There a lot of third party calls, which it’s good to see something, say something, because the people here are very concerned about the people in their own community, so if they hear something or if something doesn’t feel right, they’ll call us to do welfare checks,” she said. “I started this job in the middle of COVID, and with people being cooped up, there was definitely an increase in calls.”

There were no domestic violence-related deaths reported in Seymour in 2020, but Seymour police received 58 violence-related calls last year.

Of the 98 domestic violence deaths in Indiana, 41 were males and 57 were females. As for the manner of fatal injury, seven of those deaths were a result of stabbing, eight were other, 10 were from strangulation/suffocation and 73 were a result of shooting/firearms, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Nicholson said it’s shocking when you meet someone who is needing the services for domestic violence.

“They are coming from a very stressful situation, and luckily, they’ve had the courage to try to get out of that situation,” he said. “The third party calls are huge, as Kayla said, and neighbors helping neighbors is a great thing, but that person has to make the choice to get out of that situation.”

Nicholson also encouraged people to share resources that could help others get connected and find their way out of domestic situations.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233).