State grant helps combat violence against women in St. Joseph County

NOW: State grant helps combat violence against women in St. Joseph County

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Funding to combat violence against women is on its way to the Saint Joseph County Prosecutor's Office.

“It’s some of the most traumatizing things that can happen,” says Ken Cotter, Saint Joseph County Prosecutor.

In an effort to support victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking, an annual state grant allows better responses to those violent crimes.

“We’re able to solve more crimes if we can kind of work together to be able to not only prosecute those who commit those crimes, but then also get our victims the services that are necessary,” Cotter explains.

For the past 21 years, the Saint Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office has received a cut of the $2.8 million grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. This year’s award is over $170,000.

Cotter explains the funds go towards better services for local victims of violence by allowing a collaborative effort between detectives, victim advocates, and deputy prosecutors working on these types of cases.

The numbers show how much it’s needed.

In 2022, there were a total of 223 sexual assault victims, 1,600 domestic violence, and 31 stalking victims in Saint Joe County.

That makes a total of 1,854 people impacted and 2,828 times services were provided to them.

The reason the grant is called the ‘Stop violence against women formula grant program,’ is because these crimes typically happen to women.

Out of the total 1,854 victims in Saint Joe County, an overwhelming 1,626 of them were female, roughly 87%.

“I’m never going to say they get over it, because you’re never going to get over it, but we try to do our best to be able to help them heal and at least start that process,” assures Cotter.

Through outreach organizations like the local YWCA and the Family Justice Center, victims are able to get out of dangerous situations.

Cotter says their refined approach for the past 20 years wouldn't have been possible without the grant.

“The proof’s in the pudding,” says Cotter. “It has absolutely been substantially better for our victims.”

The grant will be made available to the prosecutor's office on October 1st, which happens to be the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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