By DAVE GOSSETT
STEUBENVILLE - After 20 years as the executive director of the A.L.I.V.E. Shelter, domestic violence is still very personal for Jodi Scheetz.
WORKING AGAINST VIOLENCE — Jodi Scheetz, left, executive director of the A.L.I.V.E. shelter in Steubenville, conferred with Tommie Matello, the day residential manager at the shelter. The two women are part of a team that works 24 hours a day to help victims of domestic violence in Jefferson County. -- Dave Gossett
"Just last week we had an 18-year-old girl who had relocated to Steubenville about a month ago at the request of a man she met on the Internet. When he started touching her inappropriately she got scared and got our number from someone on the street and then contacted us. We were able to help her with bus fare and send her home again. She was lucky because she wasn't assaulted and was able to go home. But that's not always the case," Scheetz related.
October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and a time when Scheetz increases her efforts to raise public awareness of an often behind-the-scenes issue.
"When I first started here I was young with a degree in psychology and I thought I was going to save the world. But I have learned to separate myself from work. I am on call 24 hours a day. And too often I bring my work home with me. But sometimes I need to step back," explained Scheetz.
One case that Scheetz hasn't been able to separate herself from was the 1999 murder of "Maggie," a Mingo Junction woman.
"I still think about "Maggie" because I really stood up with her when she came to our shelter. Fortunately we don't have a lot of domestic murders in Jefferson County. "Maggie" had stayed at the shelter but left both times after her husband tried to commit suicide. When "Maggie" went home the second time in 1999 she obtained a Civil Protection Order for her husband to stay away from her home. Her father-in-law called her to say his son was talking about killing her and she should leave the house but she said she wasn't going to run anymore," said Scheetz.
"She barricaded her doors but her husband forced his way into the house and stabbed 'Maggie' 20 times and then threw her down the basement steps. All this in front of her children who were pleading for him to stop. Her husband is now serving life in prison and her son and daughter were adopted and have grown into beautiful adults," Scheetz said.
"We are the sole provider for domestic violence victims in Jefferson County. We know 95 percent of domestic violence victims are females. But there are also male victims who are often too embarrassed to come forward. We provide help to the male victims, but they can't stay at our shelter," said Scheetz.
"We work with female domestic violence victims and offer to help them with different services. We do a lot of court services. And we act as a liaison between the victim and the prosecutor's office. We help the victims through the court process. We also testify as expert witnesses," Scheetz explained.
"A lot of people think they have to stay here at the shelter. But we can offer other services, including an initial assessment, determine their needs and then determine their best options. We have learned the first 10 to 14 days after a victim leaves the abuser is the most critical. The abuser has lost control and can be quite angry and manipulative," Scheetz noted.
"When the victim leaves, they don't know where their abuser is at or what they are up to. That creates a sense of uncertainty. It is a very scary decision for a victim to leave their abuser. The victim may leave seven to 10 times before they can end the relationship. The abusive relationship didn't start overnight and it takes time to end the relationship because the victim has emotional issues, financial issues and there may be children involved," Scheetz explained.
"We offer a support group for women because you are a survivor. We also offer support for children because domestic violence is a form of child abuse. Women are caregivers. We like to give a person several chances to change. But an abuser can be manipulative. We see some women over and over. Because it usually takes an average of seven times before the woman will stay away for good from her abuser," said Scheetz.
"The cycle of domestic abuse can start with the honeymoon phase. A woman doesn't get punched on the first date. But as time goes along, isolation from family and friends starts. The victim is slowly prevented from having contact with her family and friends. There is the tension building phase and that is followed by the explosion phase. Then the verbal and mental abuse starts and that is followed by the physical abuse," said Scheetz.
"We have learned women with a college education are 30 percent less likely to be an abuse victim. That's one reason why we do a lot of public speaking on the issue - telling young boys it is not right to abuse someone else and telling young girls they do not have to put up with abuse. And also telling them to get a college education," Scheetz explained.
"Unfortunately domestic violence can also be generational. I sometimes see the children who once stayed at our shelter now in adult court. We also offer domestic violence workshops in our schools. Ohio now has a law requiring public schools must have a class on domestic violence in their curriculum," she explained.
"Not all domestic violence is a serious but all cases should be taken seriously," stressed Scheetz.