Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Remembering victims, supporting survivors, funding prevention

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Victims of deadly domestic violence were remembered Tuesday at a north side church after city officials announced new funding for prevention and survivor support.

The commemoration ceremony at Meridian Street United Methodist Church was hosted by awareness advocates including Shonna Majors, the city’s director of community violence reduction.

She read the names of 16 victims from central Indiana as attendees lit a candle for each. They ranged in age from 13 to 66 and hailed from Marion, Hamilton, Hendricks and Boone counties.

Statewide, at least 31 people lost their lives to domestic violence from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

Majors, who identified herself as a survivor, urged community members to broaden their understanding of abuse within relationships.

“It can be more than just a physical act,” she told News 8. “There can be emotional, mental, financial and other forms of abuse.”

Majors had witnessed her father physically abusing her mother until their divorce when she was a teenager. She vowed to never date a man who hit her but eventually found herself with a partner who hurt her in countless other ways, she said.

Despite recognizing how his controlling, “sociopathic” behavior was eroding her self-confidence and friendships, Majors said she fell into her mother’s pattern of repeatedly leaving and returning to her abuser.

“The fear that’s been created in your mind makes you really believe that you can’t do it without that person,” she said. “It really is paralyzing and hard to break that cycle.”

Her 15-year-old niece gave her the courage to end the on-and-off relationship after Majors discovered her partner had been leading a separate life with another woman. Following their breakup, she dedicated herself to supporting domestic violence survivors and raising awareness of how abuse can escalate from mind games to deadly assault.

On Tuesday afternoon, Majors stood beside Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, police chief Bryan Roach and community partners as the city announced a $1 million grant from the Office on Violence Against Women, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The money will fund expansion of existing initiatives to improve victim safety and mental health; enforcement of protective orders; and investigation and prosecution of domestic violence-related cases.

A key program supported by the grant is the “Baker One Project,” a data-driven model aimed at identifying potential perpetrators and preventing escalating crime, police officials said. 

A 2015 report published as part of the project explored factors including demographics of victims and perpetrators, seasonality of domestic violence activity and geographic patterns. The research led to positive outcomes in targeted cases, according to Domestic Violence Network, a nonprofit organization.

“We’re excited about this project,” Roach said Tuesday. “It’s the same type of model that we’re using with our serial shooters.”

  • NEED HELP? Find contact information for local advocacy organizations on the Domestic Violence Network’s website.