GREENVILLE — The Darke County Shelter from Violence, Inc. Board of Trustees 26th Annual Banquet took place April 7, at Montage Cafe, in Greenville.
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control, perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.
Coordinator for the Darke County Shelter from Violence Annie Sonner has experienced all of the above and then some, in her work with the shelter the past 26 years. She is also a sexual assault advocate and a nurse. She was urged into the shelter by way of the former Coordinator Irene Winterrowd, but also led by a passion for people. Her past experience running rescue with Darke County Office of the Coroner Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator Joe Van Vickle had left her wondering.
“We would go on a call, and I always wondered what happened to these people after we left them,” she said. “I worried about what happened to the kids.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in Ohio, on a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute. Sonner said she receives more than 200 calls per year. Referrals come from such places as: Community Action Partnership, Darke County Sherriff’s Office and the police departments. Sonner receives an average of 23 police reports and around five from the Sheriff’s Office a month, involving domestic disputes and arrests. She also receives direct victim contacts. Constant availability is par for the course, even receiving calls at home. Some of the calls are repeat victims.
“I will talk to them every time – I never shut my door,” she said. “This is not love, it is power and control. People who love each other don’t do those things to each other. I ask women, ‘Why do you expect so little of yourself to accept that for a relationship’? I want them to think about the effects it has on those kids. The kids are learning what they are seeing. I always say kids need three things: love, security and consistent rules. They need that for a foundation – not lots of material things.”
Sonner’s clients are predominantly female, but there are a few men. She said males are less likely to come forward out of embarrassment. Another reason folks may not seek help is because they are in love with their abusers, who are often parents of their children.
“They want their kids to have a parent,” she said. “A lot of times, if you work on the family unit, they can work it out, but, you can’t fix people. They have to want to fix themselves. A lot of people have no faith base anymore, which is sad to me. I have a huge one. I just meet them where they are – like Jesus. A lot of my victims had bad teachers growing up, so I tell them, ‘Ok, if you don’t like what your parents or whoever did, don’t you do it. You should be smarter – don’t make the same choice’.”
Something else that has negatively changed the family dynamics has been the increase in the drug addiction problem.
“Drugs have made my job harder,” she said. “I am not equipped for that – I am not a re-hab center. I wasn’t dealing with drug addicts and they affect every family. Everyone is touched by someone on drugs.”
To address this, Sonner’s featured speaker for the banquet was her old friend and colleague Darke County Office of the Coroner Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator Joe Van Vickle.
“When I talk to the kids, I always say, ‘I am the last person you want to see coming to your door’,” he said. “Unfortunately, I do that a lot more than I did five years ago. I met Annie (Sonner) when I was a Senior Medic at Greenville Township. In the last three months, I have responded to more drug related situations than I did in 19 years with the (Emergency Medical Services) EMS. I didn’t see illicit drugs, with the occasional exception. We only heard about heroin in the big cities.
In the past 17 months, I have had very little heroin – these are analogs and subordinates of fentanyl or synthetic opioids. The people on the street don’t know what they are getting when they go out and buy. We are all effected by those that may have developed an addiction to heroin. We are on track to hit 50 this year, in Darke county alone. I am a firm believer that until we can interrupt the demand for substances, this problem is only going to get worse.”
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