Indian Shores PD Hosts Domestic Violence Seminar

INDIAN SHORES — There is “A Way Out” of domestic violence. The critically acclaimed documentary by the same name will be presented on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Indian Shores Municipal Center in the 4th floor community center. It is open to the public.

The Indian Shores Police Department is sponsoring the presentation. The Indian Shores Property Owners Association will supply light refreshments at the event.

Detective Cari Bittrich, a veteran law enforcement officer with the Indian Shores department, will lead the seminar. Bittrich is not only hosting the presentation but also is featured in the documentary along with other Tampa Bay law enforcement, social services, shelter, and judiciary personnel who battle in the trenches against domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is not only physical; it is financial and emotional (abuse),” said Bittrich, who has 20 years’ experience in domestic violence units.

Bittrich explained that domestic violence is not restricted by gender. “Women are not the only victims. Men can be abused as well.”

Children can be emotionally abused, being witnesses to domestic violence, and they can become victims of the violence itself. Even pets in the home can be subject to the violence perpetrated by the abuser.

The documentary focuses on the first-hand testimony and courage of five women who survived domestic violence through community and family support. Kim Donatelle’s story of being nearly stabbed to death by her ex-husband in 1989 and how she overcame this tragedy is central to the film. Donatelle’s 3-year old child witnessed this horror and Donatelle’s roommate was stabbed to death in the attack that took place in Sarasota. Donatelle’s ex-husband was sentenced to life in prison.

Society used to see domestic violence as a private problem. Bittrich points out that prior to 1996 and Florida’s Zero Tolerance domestic violence law, police typically would go on a domestic violence call and just ask the abuser to leave the house for the night. “The second call that night would be with the (victim) in the hospital or dead,” said Bittrich.

Now, if there is evidence of physical violence on a domestic battery call, “the abuser is going to jail,” said Bittrich.

Currently, there are many agencies in support of victims of domestic abuse. “Each local domestic violence shelter receives a copy of every police report,” said Bittrich. Support for job placement, child advocacy, finding a place to live, even temporary shelter for pets and more are all available.

Still, it often takes time before the abused person decides to look for a way out. “On average, it takes 12 to 13 incidents (of being abused) before the victim seeks help,” said Bittrich.

“A Way Out” was produced in Manatee County and premiered in 2015 in conjunction with the Sarasota Film Festival. Made by Manatee Educational TV and BTN Films, the documentary was produced by METV Station Manager Charles Clapsaddle and local judges Durand Adams, who is retired and wrote the screenplay, and Charles Williams.

The documentary has been shown in some major cities in the Tampa Bay area, but this is the first time it is being presented in a small-town venue. “Domestic violence is a community problem,” said Bittrich.

The problem of domestic violence affects a great many people both directly and indirectly. Bittrich shares statistics in the presentation that bring the issue home, including how businesses are impacted by workers missing work as a result of domestic violence. “People don’t want to come to work with a black eye,” said Bittrich.

The detective hopes that people from far and wide will come to see the presentation. “It takes people to help people,” she said.