PLAINFIELD — This year’s community summit, put on last week by Prevent Child Abuse Hendricks County, took the task of bringing youth violence as it relates to domestic violence situations to the discussion table at Hummel Park.
Sandy Runkle of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana and Det. Sgt. Jennifer Barrett of the Brownsburg Police Department were speakers at the free event that typically sees a blend of law enforcement, educators, social workers, and community members all in one venue to take in the learning process.
“The blend of folks here is what makes this a strong event,” said Mark Fairchild, president of PCAHC.
Fairchild said the advantages this particular summit held for educators is immense, considering how much time they spend with children.
“They’re often aware of difficult family situations where maybe they’re not seeing a direct abuse of a child happening, but they’re aware of stressors that might be fringing on or directly indicating domestic violence in the home,” Fairchild said. “They’re aware of special risk factors and different behaviors to see. It’ll make them much more aware of the emotional responses to that, some of the behaviors, some of the vulnerability the child might see and also making them aware that what they see might be a form of abuse or neglect. They’re not seeing something that’s being directly done against the child, but they can see the toll it’s taking on the child in an emotional way.”
Jennifer Hill, also of PCAHC, added, “What’s unique about this event in particular is that whenever most individuals in the room would go to a conference, the focus is very narrow. We had two completely different speakers, we have more of a social services aspect, and then we switch it to a law enforcement and criminal aspect. (Attendees) learn what they can do, should be doing, and what they can see, so I think that’s really unique.”
Fairchild said that the focus came about because of direct community suggestion.
“It’s not something we invented in our own board room, but something brought to us by different community members, law enforcement, and schools — that there’s a lack of education on this topic,” he said. “The summit every year really focuses on taking that one special topic and then disseminating it in a way where the entire population of Hendricks County can get a better grip of what the problem is and how it works. This really needs more information out there about it.”
Hill said that community participation is vital to the event’s success, because often it’s the every day citizen that is most likely to see a potentially dangerous scenario.
“Community members say they appreciate being included in the educational pieces because the community is where you’re seeing these problems,” she said. “Actually more so, so being able to include them in the conference and making them a part of the presentation, they really appreciate that fact. They learn what services are available, how they should respond in certain situations, so being able to touch on it from that aspect is really important.”
The summit was also a chance to set the record straight on common misconceptions, Fairchild said.
“A lot of folks come with very basic, general knowledge that was taken and is more likely general information they’ve taken on their own,” he said. “We’re able to take it home and get them to understand specific things about it, which takes it from having a misinterpretation of ‘this is the exact type of person to look for, this is how it goes, and this is exactly how it happens.’ We tend to, in a way, really break it down and find those points where there are different things that can be done, and actions that can be taken. So they leave feeling much more not that there’s this horrible problem that’s so deep and dark you can’t do anything about it, but that there are a lot of entry points where the general population can do something.”