Investigator works dozens of domestic abuse cases monthly in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 4, 2019

Domestic violence is a significant issue in Picayune, with the majority of the cases the department works involving simple assault, although cases of aggravated assault occur as well, said Captain Constance Myers with the Picayune Police Department.

She has been working domestic violence cases since she came to the department in 2005 and in that time she has responded to 11 to 12 domestic violence calls within a two-week period on average, although the number of cases fluctuates.

A simple assault could include physical violence, abusive language, restricting access to money or taking a phone away so the victim cannot talk to someone, Myers said. The charge is elevated to aggravated assault when there are signs of major bodily injuries.

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Recently, there has been an increase in complaints of children hitting their parents and/or cursing at them, Myers said. Those calls, along with spousal abuse, are some of the main domestic violence issues the department sees.

People who are abused are given a rights of victims package that includes information on available resources and guidance on the criminal justice system, Myers said.

“People look at the crime scene (TV) shows and think that’s how it works and that everything happens overnight,” Myers said.

Unfortunately, the court systems are backed up, so taking cases to court takes time, Myers said. The packet gives victims step-by-step information on the legal process.

It also offers information on victim’s compensation should a person suffer major injuries that require hospitalization or expensive medical treatment. The victim could then fill out a form and see if the state attorney general’s office will pay the bill for them, Myers said.

The package also gives people information on resources for child abuse, survivors of homicide, elderly service providers, the department of human services, state agencies that can offer assistance, information on sexual assault resources, and information on the district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office has a victim’s assistance coordinator who assists victims in getting the services they need.

The biggest challenge in her work is convincing victims to report their abuse, Myers said.

“A lot of them are scared they’re going to lose a lot of their stability, because that person that’s actually doing the abusing is the provider,” Myers said.

Victims often call to report domestic violence, and then decide not to press charges because the assailant is the sole provider for the family, or the victim may be scared. In many cases, the state is able to press charges even if the victim decides not to, Myers said.

Myers said she wants victims to know that abuse is not their fault and help is available.

“They don’t deserve that,” Myers said. “Nobody deserves to be treated like that. I know it’s hard to report it, but you need to get yourself out of that situation.”

The National Domestic Violence hotline is 1-800-7233. The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence can be reached at 1-800-898-3234. The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence crisis line is 800-800-1396.