LWRWC March Zoom Meeting – Domestic Violence in Manatee County

by Monika Templeman, LWRWC Publicity Chair

On Thursday,  March 11, 2021,  LWRWC members participated in a powerful General Meeting via Zoom dealing with the harrowing topic of domestic violence in Manatee County.

This topic resonates with all of us, as clearly demonstrated by our passionate support of HOPE Family Services and Children’s Guardian as LWRWC Adopted Charities. Our guest speakers, Major Connie Shingledecker and

Major Connie Shingledecker

Detective Patricia Hetrick, from the Manatee County Sheriffs Domestic Violence Unit (DVU), gave a compelling presentation that dispelled myths, provided crucial information about how violence impacts every socioeconomic group, and shared suggestions about what we can do to help save lives.

In 2019, there were 1,588 arrests for domestic violence in Manatee County. On average, it takes seven domestic violence incidents before the victim calls for help. Sadly, the pandemic created the perfect storm for domestic violence to escalate and go unreported in 2020.

Major Connie Shingledecker explained that anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, profession, and/or economic status can be a victim of domestic violence, and anyone can be a perpetrator. Domestic violence mainly occurs in the home, but can occur in the car, at work, and in public places such as beaches or parking lots. In other words, it can occur any time, any place, and often the only witnesses are the children. Kids see, hear, and sometimes call 911.

The trauma to children is devastating and long-lasting. HOPE Family Services posted a compelling photo of a highchair with the caption “this should not be a ringside seat.” Domestic violence is one of ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) that can impact the future physical and emotional health of children as they move into adulthood. Many male children who witness fathers abusing mothers are likely to become abusers and girls witnessing abuse learn how to be victims. To take a proactive approach, Major Shingledecker shared that law enforcement and schools in Manatee County partner to reduce the impact of domestic violence on children. For example, “The Handle with Care Program” gives schools a non-specific heads-up if a child experiences trauma. This helps educators to better understand resulting behaviors and meet the needs of traumatized children.

Detective Patricia Hetrick shared that there is a coordinated effort between the detective assigned to the case, the Domestic Violence Advocates (DVA) and the Florida State Attorney’s Office (SOA). The collaborative efforts between the three entities provides victims in Manatee County with the most extended outreach in services with respect to the safety of victims and their families, service referrals and protective provisions, and the expedited judiciary system.

She informed us that the DVU consists of detectives who specialize in the investigation of domestic violence cases. They also provide investigative services to the Child Protection Section in cases where domestic violence has occurred in which children are involved. The DVU investigates all injunction violations that occur within Manatee County and they share a close working relationship with the SAO. The unit also consists of DVA trained and certified in assisting victims of domestic violence, including assisting victims in the filing of injunctions. Domestic Violence injunctions provide protection and Risk Protection Orders save lives because they prevent dangerous abusers from owning and/or possessing firearms. The DVU also ensures referrals to HOPE Family Services for additional assistance. HOPE is considered a ‘blue ribbon’ program offering victims and survivors of domestic violence exemplary services.  In addition to Emergency Safe Shelter, they provide safety planning which is the backbone of HOPE’s services. HOPE offers advocacy, counseling, and children’s services, and helps with landlords, banks, etc. in an effort to promote economic justice. HOPE has staff who help survivors navigate through the courts, law enforcement and child welfare systems. HOPE’s complete continuum of services includes a 24-hour helpline for those who just need an empathic ear.

Domestic violence is an epidemic both nationally and right here in our community.  An ongoing challenge is to continuously educate those in our community who do not understand because it takes all of us to make a difference.  Domestic violence is a community problem which requires a community solution.
Domestic violence is about power and control; abusers abuse because they want to and because they can. We need to dispel the myths and the lies. Domestic violence is a deliberate pattern that starts simply and escalates over time. It is not about anger management, stress, or problems in a relationship. It is not the victim’s fault! While drugs and alcohol can exacerbate the problem, they they are not the cause. Abusers use multiple forms of power and control including economic abuse, emotional abuse, isolation, asserting male privilege, using the children and pets, minimizing, denying, and blaming, physical coercion and threats, and violence and sextual intimidation.

We have to teach children to be non-violent, we need to stop blaming victims. Most importantly, we must help our community reframe the violence and hold batterers accountable.  Until we change the community conversation from, “why does she stay?” to “why are some people so controlling, they need to threaten or hurt their partner?” not much will change. So, What Can We Do?

  • Educate ourselves.
  • Help victim support organizations like Hope Family Services
  • Report what we can! ( a local woman in an affluent neighborhood was shot and killed by her abusive husband. No one reported the fact that she often walked around the neighborhood sporting black eyes and visible bruises). See something, say something, and possibly save a life! The detectives shared a poignant quote” you never know the lives you saved, only the ones you don’t.”