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Domestic Violence Shelter Full in Joplin

Staff members at Joplin's only domestic violence shelter think it may be at capacity due to the tornado, but the Joplin Police Department doesn't have the statistics to back that up.

December 22, 2011|Joanna Small and Ben Knaup | Reporter and Photographer

JOPLIN, Mo. —   On the seven month anniversary since the Joplin tornado- a domestic violence increase since that tragic day.

  Staff members at Joplin's only shelter for battered women certainly have that perception.  Some of the hard numbers say otherwise though.

  We know that traumatic events cause stress and pressure, which in turn can lead to criminal activity, especially violence against the ones we supposedly love.

  We saw it happen after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, but not everyone agrees it's happening in Joplin.

  The Joplin tornado robbed thousands of a sense of security; Alisha Courtney is among them, but for an entirely different reason.

  "He just used my fear of having no place to go with her.  He'd use that against me," she tells us of her abusive boyfriend.

  She left his place for her dad's house, which was lost in the storm.
 
  "I had nobody else to turn to," but her boyfriend and a house full of meth.  That's why child services took Courtney's 3-year-old daughter.

  "I wish I'd never gone back.  It was the worst thing in the world," Courtney says.

  Now she's in Lafayette House.
 
  Joplin's only domestic violence shelter is bursting at the seams.

  "We had 26 beds and after the tornado we upped it," says Louise Secker, Director of Community Relations.

  Secker says she can't attribute the spike directly to the tornado but women like Courtney are staying longer because of it.

  "The housing we used to be able to help them access somewhere safe is not available anymore," Secker explains.

  The Joplin Police Chief says that may be true but a crime rise in general, and domestic abuse specifically, is not true.
 
  There was a 5% increase in domestic violence in the 30 weeks after the tornado, but there was a 5% decrease in domestic violence the 30 weeks before the tornado, and over the last seven months compared to the same time last year there was actually an 8% decrease.

  "Our crime rate over the last 4 1/2 years is down almost 28%- that's huge, and it has continued throughout the tornado recovery time period," Chief Lane Roberts tells KSPR.

  Roberts says the department has been pro-active, heading off problems at the FEMA mobile home parks with a police substation.

  "I think our last reporting period 3% of the crime occurred up there."

  Part of a trend, or not, Courtney is a victim.
 
  But not for much longer.

  "I will soon be getting my own apartment and bringing my daughter home," she tells us proudly.
 
  Chief Roberts does say calls in general are up, while police reports are down.

  Officers are being called to respond to incidents before they rise to the level that a report has to be made.

  For example, there have been over 400 domestic violence calls since the tornado but only four actual assaults.

  Although the Lafayette House is full no one will be turned away.

  If you are in an abusive situation in the Joplin area and need help call 417-782-1772.

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