Domestic violence cases spike since Hurricane Katrina
"Since Hurricane Katrina, domestic violence in the parish has definitely increased," she said. "Some people have a lot of stress because they've lost their homes, and their jobs, and things sometimes become violent between couples."
Schmitt said that domestic violence doesn't apply to one gender.
"There are men in the parish who are victims too," she said. "They'll say the spouse or the girlfriend scratched them or slapped them because they were drinking, but they're usually not like this all the time."
Programs are available to help residents in crisis dealing with family violence, but Schmitt said not enough people are coming forward for help.
"We have victim assistance programs in the parish to help the families to relocate by ensuring they get a deposit on an apartment and their utilities deposits waved for water, phone, and electricity," she said. "The problem is that once the women leave, they allow the boyfriend or spouse to come back. At first I couldn't understand this way of thinking."
After working with victims, Schmitt now knows it's a mindset that tells the victims this is the best they can do.
"What I learned from these women is the promises, the promises from the partner that it won't happen again, and then flower, and the gifts come, and once that partner feels they've lost control over that person, things become dangerous and escalate to violent altercations because domestic violence is really all about control," she said. "The victims just keep going back, so it's the same cycle over and over again.
“What I'm concerned about now is a trend where we see girls involved in relationships being battered by boyfriends."
Schmitt said students come up to her and say “my best friend is being beaten up by her boyfriend and her parents don't know.”
"We can't do anything to help these young women until they come forward," she said.
The sheriff's office and the St. Charles Parish School System have been partners in preventing crimes against women and children by teaching self-defense classes.
"We get participants from all over St. Charles Parish and from other parishes like Jefferson, and we tell women that these techniques are not just for isolated incidents because it can be used when they encounter strangers,” Schmitt said. “We know that some women and men will need self defense moves even in their own homes.”
The Greater New Orleans Women's and Children's Center serves victims in times of crisis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In case of an emergency call the 24 hour hotline: regional 504-837-5400, statewide: 1-888-837-5400 or 1-888-411-37
Those in St. John, St. James, and St. Charles parishes can call 985-651-7397.
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